The Board of Appeals yesterday approved a developer's plans to replace a condemned office building on Penniman Road with a seven-story, 44-unit condo building - next to a 36-unit building and surrounded by low-lying industrial buildings slated for demolition to make way for a three-building complex with more than 260 units.
As part of the approval, developers Howard and Jay Hirsh say they will ensure that at least 60% of the units at 30 Penniman Rd. - between Braintree and Hano street, - are owner-occupied rather than leased out or just held for investment.
Six of the units would be sold as affordable - three to people making no more than 80% of the Boston-area median income and three to people making up to 100% of it. Two first-floor units will be sold as lofts to artists.
The mayor's office and City Councilor Mark Ciommo backed the proposal, but both the Allston Civic Association and the Brighton Allston Improvement Association opposed the plans, at least not without further work.
ACA President Tony D'Isodoro said that the seven-story height sets a precedent for that part of Allston to get even taller - he said the association recently saw preliminary plans for a 14-story building at Linden and Cambridge streets, and he questioned plopping a seven-story building on the 26-foot-wide Penniman Road.
"These developers are getting emboldened on the envelope continually being pushed," he said. "Who are we building these condominiums for? Are we building them for investors or for residents of the community? ... Yes, Allston wants more condominiums, but they are not going to write a blank check to people just because they want to build more condominiums."
Annabela Gomes of the BAIA said her group wanted to see more affordable units in the building, and questioned why 100% of the units could not be deed restricted to owner occupancy. "We have an abundance of luxury apartments and condos" in the neighborhood, she said.
Joe Hanley, attorney for the developers, though, said the project is far from luxury, that there's no way the Hirshes could sell luxury units in what is still largely a depressed industrial area. He said the developers themselves proposed making 51% of the units owner occupied and upped that to 60% as the urging of the neighborhood.
"This location is not Oak Square; it is a very challenging location," he said.
He said that he would have loved to spend more time trying to work out an agreement with the neighborhood groups but that timing just would not permit it. The Hirshes are planning to take advantage of the work being done by the Michaels Group on the larger three-building complex on Rugg Road and that requires them to start work at the same time as the Michaels Group - starting early in 2019.
The BPDA approved the project last month.