Would-be Readville developer sets Sisyphean tasks for self: Fixing neighborhood traffic and commuter-rail fares

Universal Hub | adamg
November 1, 2016

would-be-readville-developer-sets-sisyphean-tasksArchitect’s rendering of two of the proposed buildings
Developer Jordan Warshaw today showed up plans for a 521-unit middle-income apartment complex in four buildings that would rise as high as eight stories in what is now an industrial/warehouse area off Sprague Street between Sprague Pond, the Northeast Corridor and the Readville train station.

Before an audience of about 200 Readville residents – and a few from neighboring Dedham – Warshaw acknowledged the small neighborhood’s increasingly intractable traffic nightmare, caused by being a cut-through for people going pretty much every which way on roads never designed for them. Residents said it can take them half an hour to get from one side of the Sprague Street bridge to Wolcott Square.

Warshaw vowed to work with the developers of the Yard 5 small-industrial park and with officials from the city and the two state agencies that have jurisdiction over the Father Hart bridge to finally install traffic signals at either end – and to tie that into a new traffic-signal system in Walcott Square.

Many people have proposed similar work in the past only to crash and vanish on the rocks of bureaucratic inertia. Warshaw said that with two developers fightig for the work, this time things might be different.

Another key part of Warshaw’s plan to minimize traffic impact from his complex is the fact that it’s right next to the Readville train station, which he said would appeal to Millennials who don’t want to buy cars. He said he would put in a sidewalk to the train station.

Residents did not quit snort in derision, but said they doubted things would work out quite so well in part because the new residents would do what the old ones do – drive the mile to Fairmount station, where the fare is $4.50 less per trip.

Warshaw acknowledged how empty the Readville parking lots are because so many people do that. He said he recently met with T officials, who he said seemed amenable to the idea – also pushed by city councilors Tim McCarthy and Michelle Wu – to reduce Readville fares to the $2.25 Fairmount rates. However, he acknowledged that God only knows if that will actually translate into anything.

Because the 6.5-acre site sits on a slope down from Sprague Street to the train tracks, Warshaw said he would be able to do something really different with the project – put parking underground, freeing up much of the land for open space – including a linear park, open to the public, along Sprague Street, which many people don’t even realize exists.

He said the complex will be mainly aimed at two groups of people without children – people just getting out of school who don’t want to pay Seaport or South End rents and local empty nesters who no longer want to deal with the problems of home ownership. Amenities aimed at these groups would include the obligatory rooftop pool, a restaurant, a coffee shop, a large exercise room – featuring a basketball half-court – and what Warshaw said would be Boston’s first apartment-complex-based co-working area. Zipcars? Of course.

Three of the four buildings would look like old industrial buildings, in homage to the area’s history – and to break with the fake clapboard stuff prevalent at pretty much every apartment complex built in the Boston area in recent years. The fourth building would have more of a modern feel, he said.

In addition to underground parking, the slope means that the buildings won’t be nearly as visible from surrounding areas as if the land were at the same height as Sprague Street – one woman exclaimed “Oh, my God!” when Warshaw said one of the buildings would be eight stories tall.

One thing that would be visible, if Warshaw goes with it, would be a large antenna-like tower that would read READVILLE on each side, in an attempt to give the area a unique feel, almost like the Citgo Sign, he said.

In general, opposition to the project increased with the age of the person who rose with questions. Residents agreed with Warshaw that Readville is a great place to live, but expressed doubt that Millennials would ever want to move there. What guarantees, one resident demanded, would Warshaw give that when regular renters stay away, Warshaw wouldn’t just let the whole thing become a gang-infested project?

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