By Adam Swift
Revere’s zoning subcommittee voted 5-1 Monday night to recommend approval of a special permit for the former Lee’s Trailer Park on Winthrop Avenue, consisting of 250 residential units with 10 percent of the units offered at affordable rates.
The project was before the full city council for a lengthy public hearing last week before moving to the zoning subcommittee. With the subcommittee vote, the project will be back before the full council for approval of the special permit next week.
The six-story building will have 36 studio, 106 one-bedroom, and 106 two-bedroom apartments, according to attorney Gerry D’Ambrosio, representing developer Helge-Gansett. There will also be parking spaces for 179 vehicles and the mixed-use development will have retail space on the first floor of the building on the five-acre site.
The proposed 25 affordable units at 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) will represent one of the first privately developed projects in the city with an affordable housing component.
Since the council hearing last week, D’Ambrosio said he has heard from residents and local leaders who believe the project is too large, as well as others who have said they would like to see a larger project with more affordable units.
“I put one thing out there as an advocate for this project, there is a great saying I think should apply here, simply put, do not let your version of perfection destroy progress,” said D’Ambrosio. “It is progress to be removing a dilapidated 75-year-old trailer park with substandard living conditions there. At this point, the project before you has been negotiated over the last year.”
D’Ambrosio also noted that building permits issued in the past several years in Eastern Massachusetts, and that there is a need for more housing units to help keep the housing stock up and rents more affordable in the state.
The attorney also addressed the number of affordable units in the development, noting that the project’s commercial lender would not be able to finance the project if there was a higher rate of affordable units.
Councillor-at-Large Michelle Kelley was the lone member of the zoning subcommittee to vote against recommending approval of the special permit.
Kelley raised concerns about the scope and density of the project, as well as the number of affordable units being proposed.
“Of course, I would like to see something built in this area, to build up the area, to clean up the area, I think that’s all great,” said Kelley. “What I am not in favor of are 250 apartments that don’t conform to the criteria of a Planned Unit Development in a TED zone. I would love to see something with a community feel … rather than more and more apartments.”
Kelley said there is a need for housing, but she said it cannot come at the detriment of public safety and putting a strain on public resources and services. She said that at a minimum, she would like to see the size of the project decreased.
Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselsky voted in favor of recommendation for the project, but he also said he would like to see the project contain more affordable units.
D’Ambrosio said the developer did agree to address some concerns raised by other councillors and provide a preference for local residents, veterans, and seniors for the affordable units.
Ward 1 Councillor Joanne McKenna said the project is in her ward and that she has been involved in the negotiations over the past year. She said those negotiations saw a decrease in the number of overall units and an increase in the percentage of affordable units.
McKenna said there will also be substantial financial benefits to the city, including $2 million per year in property taxes, payments to the community improvement trust fund, and $500,000 toward a new Revere Community Arts Center at the old Beachmont Fire Station. In addition, there will be major upgrades to the site and the cleaning and maintenance of Green Creek.
“I think it is an excellent project, and a lot of credit goes to (McKenna),” said Ward 4 Councillor Paul Argenzio. “She’s been in negotiations for a year, and she got it to the point where she feels it is a great project for her ward. I think there are a lot of plusses here – of course, we would all like to see more affordable housing, but it is a start.”