Pavey Concept Calls for 11 Stories, 400 beds; Neighbors Express Concern
More details were revealed last night about the proposed View on Pavey Square development, a mixed-use project which would replace most of the existing buildings on the west side of High Street between Northwood and Oakland avenues in the University District. The concept calls for approximately 140 apartment units, containing over 400 beds. The building would increase in height as it moves farther back from High, Oakland, and Northwood; the tallest section would be located at the back of the project along Wall Alley, rising 11 stories above a ground-level parking garage.
The proposal was presented by architect Bhakti Bania of BBCO Design at a well-attended meeting of the University Area Review Board. Although a site plan and general information about the potential development had been submitted to the UARB last week, Bania’s presentation featured elevations and renderings that provided a much better idea of the scale of the project.
The reaction from the 30 or so neighbors in attendance — about 12 of whom stood and voiced their concerns — was generally negative and focused on the impact of such a large development on what has traditionally been a quieter section of High Street with many historic houses still intact.
“I think it’s the right idea in the wrong neighborhood,” said resident Stuart McIntyre.
Devin Quinn, who said his “whole family lives within walking distance” of the project, said that while he appreciates the effort to add public green space along High Street and to retain two of the existing buildings, “the height is insane for this area, it doesn’t fit… that block is very pedestrian-friendly, and this would be losing the style of block, it feels very sterile.”
After the public comments the panel discussed the proposal with the applicants and added their critiques. Through that discussion it became clear that some elements of the architecture — such as the stepping-back of the building and an open wooden archway or colonnade proposed to run along the sidewalk — were necessary to ensure that the project could be developed without any zoning variances.
Without a need for variances, the development would not need to be heard by the University Area Commission or go before City Council for approval.
Board member Pasquale Grado called it “a creative manipulation of the zoning code, not architecture,” although he acknowledged the positive track record of both the developer and the architect, and sounded hopeful that future iterations would improve on the initial concept.
Grado also pointed out that, even though the development appears to comply with the existing zoning for the block (and the applicants indicated that the city’s Chief Zoning Official Chris Presutti had signed off on the proposal), it does not align at all with the recommendations of the University District Plan, which calls for more intense development south of Lane Avenue.
“The plan tries to create compression at Lane and High, then once you cross over Northwood, there’s a decompression, and the street responds to the setback of the existing housing,” said Grado.
After the meeting, Mike Balakrishnan — who is developing the project along with Jerry Solove — said that they hope to come back soon with a modified proposal that takes into consideration the feedback received at the meeting. Asked if they would consider preserving more than just two of the High Street houses — an idea put forth by more than one board member — he said it was “a possibility… that is one of the things that I picked up (from the discussion with the board)… it came through loud and clear.”
All renderings via BBCO Design.