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.




17 Responses to “Big Broadway project frustrates abutters”

  1. Joan F says:

    Is 11 Langmaid that white triple decker eyesore with the huge satellite dish on top of it behind the vacant lot? If so, I’m glad this building take away that vacant lot. It’s decrepit and makes me upset everytime I drive down Broadway.

  2. winter hill says:

    There is more to this development then one abutter who won’t be able to see the Boston Skyline, This site needs development and this is better then what’s been there now for many years. Winter Hill is in need of some attention, hopefully our Alderman will do some work and get the Star Market site worked on next. We need stop catering to one or two and remember its the whole picture not one person who is upset over the fact that she can’t see. Whatever happened to majority rules or is that in just elections? Maybe next time a real Aldermatic candidate will run for office, this guy Tony has been there now 2 years and still looks the same on Winter Hill.

  3. Jane says:

    Every project in Somerville is pro-developer. All the developer has to do is make a small ‘concession’ (probably cutting the # of units back to what they really wanted anyway), and everyone bows down and says ‘thank you’. Meanwhile, abutters are ignored and they are considered to be crackpots, whiners, or worse because they dare to complain.

  4. A. Moore says:

    It looks like they have storefronts in that design to me. I don’t see that working for that spot. I could be wrong but it just not seem like the right space for that. Seems like it would be better for just apartments. As for the people who live having been through this myself years ago it usually does not go well in their favor.

  5. Villenous says:

    Amazing. Someone wants to come in and get the ball rolling on revitalizing Winter Hill and here comes the NIMBY. Yes, I’m sure that decrepit lot next door does wonders for the rental value of your apartments.

    On every level this is a change for the better in Winter Hill.

  6. Jane says:

    What’s wrong with looking out for yourself and your financial interests? The developers sure do, with the help of the city. The city has made people angry because of their pro-development, shove it down your throat, the developer gets what they want, the abutters get screwed, stance. It’s too bad, because not all development is bad, but because so much of it is, people are turned off.

  7. Yikes says:

    Are you kidding me? This is the future of a creative city like Somerville? This looks like it was airlifted in from Florida.

  8. MarketMan says:

    While I agree that anything is better than some vacant lot, but I agree with Yikes… why are all the new developments large and ugly. Force the developers to build something nice for the city. Sure they’ll make less money, but they’ll live.

  9. ritepride says:

    Star Market will like Somerville Engine 3, Union Square remain the way it is for a long time. Evidently “some” elected official(s) have not seen anything appealing (“what’s in it for me?”, aka Da Envelope Puhleeez) to their own interest to get both of these properties in proper operation.

    Putting a supermarket, restaurant, or the right thing that the Winter Hill
    Residents want should be the #1 priority. Somerville Engine 3 aka Marine Unit 3, the problem should have been dealt with 20+ years ago. Automatic pumps should have been installed to keep the flooding issue away from the building. Many administrations looked the other way and instead used funds that could have fixed the problem, for their own selfish interests.

  10. Manny Petty says:

    a lot of our development is like this–built right out to the sidewalk. No setback for a shrub or two, or just less of a crowded feel. My neighborhood has two, and they seem to go up everywhere. It’s a cold, urban style that I hate to see taking over. use every available inch of space to make an extra dollar.

  11. Villenous says:

    Setbacks on Broadway? That’s insane. You do setbacks on quiet residential streets. On commercial boulevards like Broadway you build right off the sidewalk with ground floor retail.

    I agree with those saying the look is a bit generic. It would be smart to create an architectural board to make sure each section of the city develops its own unique style. A green roof would be nice too.

  12. Sam says:

    Why not setbacks on Broadway, so there can be a little green? As was said, just enough for some flowers or shrubs. Tall buildings right up to the sidewalk can be very cold and uninviting.

  13. Manny Petty says:

    Villenous–you build setbacks wherever you want or wherever the community would like them.

  14. Villenous says:

    Curb appeal drops exponentially every foot you’re set back off the sidewalk and the successful restaurant/retail establishments along Broadway are all built right out to the sidewalk. It’s working in Ball Square, Magoun Square and East Somerville. It works for Mama Lisa’s and the Winter Hill Bakery, and no one’s calling those places cold and uninviting.

    Business district setbacks are for suburbs. Somerville tried to be one for decades and it failed hard. Being a city is working pretty well. Plus, I’m pretty sure the zoning on that lot calls for frontage. If you want greenery along Broadway in Winter Hill then start demanding a streetscape overhaul.

  15. Manny Petty says:

    not talking about putting in a putting green. Just a plant pot or two and a nice entrance. I don’t care what works other places, or buildings that were slapped down after WW2. Talking about what people want now.

  16. MarketMan says:

    Manny: Since I guess I don’t have much imagination of how that would look, can you give me an example of an urban area that has setbacks like you are suggesting?

  17. Manny Petty says:

    Marketman, are you serious? if you’re that limited, you shouldn’t be allowed use of a computer.

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