By SCOTT JACKSON
Residents gave their backing to a proposed $205 million development at the North Quincy MBTA station featuring 610 apartments and 50,000 square feet of retail space, saying it would provide both housing options near mass transit and a place to shop and eat for the local community.
The Planning Board is currently reviewing a proposal by two firms – Atlantic Development and Bozzuto Development – to develop the parking lot on the Hancock Street side of the station. The MBTA awarded those firms rights to develop the station a year ago. The two companies would enter into a 99-year lease with the T to develop the station site.
The Planning Board heard from residents and a city councillor who supported the proposal Wednesday night.
Kelley Stenberg, a young professional who works in downtown Boston, said apartments like the ones proposed at the North Quincy station appeal to people like her who commute to Boston daily.
“I love living in Quincy but without access to a car getting to the T is very difficult and I’m thinking about my next spot. If there was an attractive option like this that is super close to the MBTA and accessible to the city…I would jump on it in a second,” Stenberg said.
“I think other people like myself who…don’t want to be out in the suburbs, don’t want to be downtown, would make that move as well.”
Andrew Howell said the retail space could be beneficial to people working in one of the several office buildings in the vicinity of the train station. Howell, who moved to North Quincy from Florida for a job near the T station, said those workers currently have to head to Milton or Dorchester on their lunch breaks for a healthy option.
“As a nearby homeowner I think from a property value stance it’s wonderful. It would look beautiful. It’s another close-by place to eat and shop,” Howell said.
“I’m very much in favor of the project. I think it will be a great addition to North Quincy. I’ve seen just in the five or six years I’ve lived here the investment that’s gone into Quincy Center and how much more frequently I’m down here eating at all the new restaurants and actually going out in downtown Quincy rather than Boston.”
Maureen Conway, a member of the bicycling advocacy group Quincycles, said the organization is happy to see the developers prioritize safety for pedestrians and cyclists who plan on accessing the station.
“We’re very pleased on the focus on pedestrian safety and cycling safety,” she said. “It would be great if we could encourage more folks to not only walk to the T station, but to cycle…It is our hope that more people will cycle back and forth to the T station, reducing traffic.”
Tom McFarland said the project would improve one of the main entrances to the city.
“I’m so happy to see this type of investment,” he said. “[It will] really clean up the city’s gateway. It’s what you get when the state and the city and the T get together and design transit-oriented housing.”
John Rodophele said he liked the look of the proposed development, but would prefer to see the commercial building at 275 Hancock St. – adjacent to the project site but not included in it – razed to make way for open space.
“That would make a beautiful park,” he said. “That would be something I wholeheartedly support.”
Ward 1 Councillor Margaret Laforest echoed the sentiments of those who spoke before her, saying the project would provide new transit-oriented housing and retail to serve the neighborhood. Additionally, she said the project would be beneficial in terms of stormwater management because new drains lines will be installed and the amount of asphalt on site reduced.
“I do want to be here tonight to support this project – to support development in the gateway to our city,” Laforest said. “We need to take advantage of this opportunity to make the improvements. We all know Quincy’s potential – the sky is the limit – and this is a really great kick-off to our transit development.”
The Planning Board closed the public hearing on the proposal at Wednesday’s meeting, meaning no more testimony from community members will be heard during future sessions. Written comments will still be accepted via mail or email.
Prior to the public hearing section of the meeting, the development presented new architectural plans for the site to the board.
The proposal includes three buildings and a garage. MBTA officials have said construction of the garage – which has 852 spaces, equivalent to the number of parking spaces on site today – could begin in early 2018 and take about a year to complete. The proposal by the developers includes a total of nearly 1,600 parking spaces.
Nancy Ludwig, the president of Icon Architecture, said the development would be built in two phases. The first phase includes the new garage and two buildings adjacent to it that will envelope the parking structure and block it from view. The third building, located in the north side of the parking lot, would be built in phase two.
Ludwig said the buildings have been designed to better blend in with the surrounding area.
“It does not feel like one long building but a series of buildings that run the length of the property,” she said.
The current entrance to the station will serve as one of the entrances to the new development, including the parking garage. As part of the projects, the sidewalks along either side of the entryway will be widened to about 20 feet and lined with trees to promote pedestrian access. The street level includes large windows to make the site more inviting.
“At the ground level, we’re proposing broad areas of glass so you can look in and see the activity and life of the uses that we’ve brought down to the street,” Ludwig said.
The developers also plan to open the entrance to the station of Sagamore Street in the north end of the parking lot.
D.J. MacKinnon, the president of Atlantic Development, said the developers plan to look for a grocery store to occupy the large retail space located near the Squantum Street side of the station.
Coleman Barry, the vice chairman of the Planning Board, said he would like to see a restaurant located in the new development to serve the North Quincy community.
“We need better restaurants in North Quincy,” he said. “As much as I love going to the 99 when the Red Sox win and kids eat free, I want to go home to where I grew up, which is that part of the city, and go and get something to eat.”
MacKinnon said the developers would like to see a grocery store that offers prepared foods and a dining area.
“If you go to a lot of the new concepts, you actually have not only prepared foods in them but eat-in areas that are different than just eating in a grocery store – they’re actually like a restaurant,” he said.
As for putting a restaurant in one of the other storefronts, MacKinnon said it would be a great direction to go, but there are no commitment for the retail spaces yet.
The board did not vote on the proposal Wednesday. The project is undergoing a state environmental review.