Massive Brighton development starts review

Cabot, Cabot and Forbes yesterday filed an expanded project notification form with the Boston Redevelopment Authority for its proposed graduate student housing complex on the closed St Gabriel’s Monastery. In the letter of intent filed back in May, Cabot, Cabot and Forbes wanted to build 680 apartments and 400 parking spaces on the 11.1 acre site at 159 Washington Street in Brighton. The proposal in the EPNF is similar, with 679 apartments and 395 parking spaces.

159 Washington

While initially targeted at graduate students, the EPNF makes it clear that the housing will be marketed towards young professionals and university faculty and staff, not just students. The developers also believe that the project will free up housing for families in the neighborhood, making it a test of Barry Bluestone’s Millenial Village idea.

The monastery building will be renovated and an historic private residence called the Pierce House will also be maintained. However, a dormitory for the Passionist monks and St Gabriel’s Church itself will be demolished. The monastery was closed in 1978 and the parish in 2006, due to the decline in Passionists and priests. A shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima on the site will be relocated.

The residences will range in size from studios to three-beds and the developer has also planned a great deal of amenity spaces, including a fitness center, cafe and game room. The project will also be part of the Allston Brighton Transportation Management Association to encourage vans and car pools and the developers say they will explore shuttle services to nearby universities.

Four buildings will be built. Building One will be up to five stories, Building Two-A and Two-B will both have six stories over one level of a surface parking garage and Building Three will have up to five stories over two levels of parking.

159 Washington site plan

In terms of urban design, it’s a very disappointing project. Having all of the buildings set back from the street, surrounded by loads of open space and with parking on the ground floor will only encourage people to drive. It sends the message that it’s a suburban project, not an urban one — and if there’s one thing millenials want, it’s urban vitality. The winding driveways, the buffering with green space and trees, the cafe and fitness center all say “dorm” rather than “village”. Real villages have streets and buildings on the streets.

The same land area could contain a portion of the North End bounded by Prince, Salem, Hanover, Commercial and Foster Streets — which includes the Paul Revere Mall and Old North Church. But this is more like the ugly, boring and devoid of life West End created by Ed Logue and the BRA in the 1950s. This isn’t designed for millenials, but for the old farts who live nearby and think that the neighborhood is “over developed” anyways and oppose anything that hints of being designed for younger people.

Boston needs housing, but it also needs urban development not more faux-suburban apartment complexes.

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