City expected to endorse Cleveland Circle plan despite resident-group’s objections
The Boston Redevelopment Authority is poised to approve a controversial $80 million mixed-use development that would redevelop the shuttered Cleveland Circle Cinema in Brighton, one of the earliest indicators yet of how the Walsh administration will balance neighborhood objections with private-sector plans to revitalize sections of the city.
On June 19, the BRA’s board is likely to endorse Boston Development Group’s plan to replace the cinema site at 399 Chestnut Hill Ave. with a mixed-use residential, hotel and retail complex. Typically, items that make it on the agenda win unanimous board approval. The thumbs-up is expected despite opposition from most members of the Impact Advisory Group, a city-appointed panel assembled to advise the BRA on the project. A majority of the panel wanted a development with fewer apartments, less height and guarantees that apartments would not be rented to undergraduates, among other demands.
“I’m very angry at the BRA,” said IAG member Mary Cronin. “Given that the city will not insist that the developer make these changes, the project will be a disaster for the people living near it. We are being left holding the bag and we are the ones who will take the hit once it’s built.”
Eva Webster, another IAG member, said while she has been supportive of the redevelopment, it should not proceed to the board without changes that would improve the overall project.
“This project needs to happen, but my support was conditioned on tying up the loose ends,” she said. “The things that I have been asking for are not deal breakers. They are things that would improve the project for the neighborhood and the developer.”
But Erico Lopez, the BRA’s project director, said while support from the IAG is preferable, he noted that based on the comment letters to the city, the neighborhood generally supports the redevelopment plan. Of the 259 comment letters to the BRA, 171 were in support, 84 were opposed and four were neutral, he said.
“We always want to have the IAG on the same page, but when we nominate members, we don’t nominate them for their voice to be the one and only voice,” he said. “The process for this project can never be questioned. We have gone through more than three years of community meetings. This project has gone through an evolution and the city received much more mitigation and community benefits than a lot of projects because we’ve had the community’s input.”
Mayor Martin J. Walsh first hinted at his approval for the Cleveland Circle project last month in an interview with the Boston Business Journal. The project is among the first controversial development plans he has addressed since taking office earlier this year.
“People have a right to have a voice in the community,” said Walsh at the time. “If we are building a 60-story tower in an area that’s zoned for three stories, then that’s too much density. But here we are talking about a development that will result in a revitalization of the Cleveland Circle area.”