Big Broadway project frustrates abutters

On August 21, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times
An artist’s rendering of the proposed development at 315 Broadway.

An artist’s rendering of the proposed development at 315 Broadway.

By Harry Kane

A concerned homeowner has filed an appeal against the decision of the Planning Board to approve the 53,000-square-foot building at 315 Broadway. Neighbors of the future residential and retail development understand that Somerville is growing, but some feel it’s too much, too fast, and too big.

Developers have made many concessions to satisfy community members during the design process. A reduction in building size from 56 to 46 units – dropping the building by some 10,000 square feet – was part of a compromise.

The building material was changed from fake brick to solid brick. That was an achievement, says Ward 4 Alderman Tony Lafuente. He feels the new building can now co-exist, architecturally, with the rest of the neighborhood.

Still, some homeowners are strong opponents of the project because of the height and the proximity to their property. Residents have also voiced worries about traffic and parking related problems, the potential of flooding, and the loss of homeowners’ livelihood, due to vacancies.

Alderman Lafuente is pro-development, but says he’s sensitive to the residents’ concerns and sought an amicable solution.  “I was being sympathetic to the abutters, because I thought it was unfair for someone to come in and just completely block their view,” says Lafuente.

“We went through the process; the process broke down,” Lafuente admits. One of the options Lafuente had at his disposal was to propose that the Board of Aldermen designate that building a historical site. The legislation would have prevented the developer from knocking down the building to put in the new structure. At the very least, the developer would have had to use the façade of the building and incorporate that into the new design.

But the Planning Board was satisfied in the reduction in the units. They thought that the developer had made a good effort, and approved the project unanimously.

An overhead view of the project’s footprint.

An overhead view of the project’s footprint.

Samira Tuffaha, 76, of 11 Langmaid Ave. lives next-door to the future development, which will stand on the corner of Broadway and Temple Street. Her son, Sam Jadallah, bought the house for her in 1995. Since then, Tuffaha has lived there peacefully. But this past March she found out some ill-starred news.

“We were shocked,” said Tuffaha. “Now, we can see Boston skyline, and we can see the bridge…the way it looks like, we’re gonna be only seeing the back of the building.”

Tuffaha says the new development will devalue her home, and threaten the income she receives for the two units she rents out. “Nobody will pay the market value for an apartment that has no privacy,” she says.

For the last four months Tuffaha’s life has been consumed by the project. “My blood pressure has went sky-high, and I couldn’t do anything else but imagine how my life was going to be with that development.”

In 2010 re-zoning along the Broadway corridor made it possible for larger buildings to be erected. But Tuffaha’s son, Jadallah, thinks the new development at 315 Broadway will dwarf the traditional homes of Somerville.

“This development overpowers the neighborhood and will dominate over our home, towering above it and wrapping around it,” he says. “It is roughly 15 times larger than our triple-decker and we will feel, quite literally, like we are in their parking lot.”

“We’d support appropriate development,” Jadallah says, “something that fits in the neighborhood and adds value to the community. This monster structure is not it.”

Jadallah filed a complaint for judicial review – Massachusetts General Laws: CHAPTER 40A, Section 17 – appealing the decision of the Somerville Planning Board.

 

 

 

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