The Revere Zoning Board of Appeals approved three separate projects for Shirley Avenue, all of which required several variances last week.
The projects will comprise a total of 95 residential micro-units among three buildings and three commercial spaces in two of the buildings. The city’s coffers will realize more than $450,000 in permit and other fees and will bring in another $200,000 for the Community Improvement Trust Fund for infrastructure improvement projects within the vicinity of the new development.
A unique aspect of the project is that there is no provision for off-street parking for the 95 residential units. The leases will specify that each tenant who rents a micro-unit cannot own a motor vehicle, which the developer, Jamie Russo, and the proponents assert obviates the need for off-street parking. With the MBTA’s bus stop on Beach St. within easy walking-distance, the project is deemed a “transit-oriented development.”
For all three of the projects, Russo’s three companies (Eastern Equity Partners LLC for the Bagel Bin site at 207-209 Shirley Ave., Shirley Ventures LLC for the former St. Jean’s Credit Union site at 180-184-186 Shirley Ave., and EB VENTURES LLC for the corner block at Shirley Ave. and Thornton St.) came before the board seeking variances involving some degree of relief from the zoning ordinances regarding minimum lot size; frontage; side yard, rear yard, and front yard setback; floor area ratio; parking; maximum building height; and buffer zone screening.
The first project to come up for discussion was for 207-209 Shirley Avenue, the site of the Bagel Bin Restaurant that was destroyed by a fire in 2018. The height of the project will be four-stories with one commercial space and 32 studio apartments consisting of 456 square feet each.
There will be 11 parking spaces in the back for commercial parking, but there will be no off-street parking for tenants since they cannot own a motor vehicle according to the lease that they must sign.
Robert O’Brien, the city’s Economic Development Director, spoke in favor of the project. “The developer made a commitment to lease no units to tenants who own cars for this building, as well as the tenants for the other two projects that the zoning board also is reviewing during this meeting,” said O’Brien.
Hansi Vlladesi, the owner of the Bagel Bin, spoke in favor of the project, noting that this will be an opportunity for his restaurant to return to Shirley Ave.
Ronald Hogan, who has owned a laundromat across the street on Shirley Ave. for 10 years, supported the project, noting that he was pleased to see the investment in the area.
Both Councillor-at-Large Tony Zambuto and Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselsky voiced their support for the project. “This project is transit-oriented and no developer has done more for the neighborhoods than Jamie Russo, who has a track record,” said Zambuto, who concluded his remarks by adding, “We all want the Bagel Bin back on Shirley Ave.”
“This project is privately-funded, so there are no affordable units offered,” said Novoselsky, who also noted the various issues raised by area residents. “I am pro-development, but a lot of the opponents have concerns about height and parking.”
Ralph DeCiccio, the Chairman of the Revere Disabilities Commission, also spoke, pointing out, “None of the tenants can get either a resident parking permit or visitor stickers.”
Area resident Kristen Janjar of Campbell Ave. supported the return of the Bagel Bin, but echoed the concerns of the other opponents, saying, “Do we need four stories above them? We don’t need people who are not invested in the neighborhood.”
The second project, located at the corner of Shirley Avenue and Thornton Street, calls for the present building to be razed and for the construction of a three-story structure with 18 micro-units. Similar to the other project, there will be no off-street parking provided by the developer, but each unit will be leased only to tenants who do not own cars.
Anne Steinman of 45 Thornton St. noted that there is no sticker required to park overnight on Thornton St. She added, “I do not have the warm and fuzzies with no low-income housing units.”
Lor Holmes, another resident of the area, added, “Put this on hold and do not rush into this. Neighborhood input is needed.”
The third project, formerly the site of the St. Jean’s Credit Union at 180-184-186 Shirley Ave., entails 45 micro-units with two commercial spaces on the street level in a five-story building.
O’Brien, speaking in favor of the project, noted, “The developer will get the right commercial tenants.”
Dr. Jeff Coen, whose business personally has been on Shirley Ave. for 30 years and whose family has been there for 60 years, said, “This is a long time coming. The last 10 years have been an improvement for the neighborhood.”
Hogan, speaking again, noted, “Street-level development will need housing density to succeed.”
Novoselsky added, “I am still a proponent of this project, but have some reservations on the parking and the way it is built. We did not have a community meeting because of Covid-Virus in order to answer some of the concerns from opponents.”
The opponents again reiterated that they thought the process was rushed and that the community had been left out. They noted that all three projects lacked off-street parking for the tenants.
Chairman of the Appeals Board Michael Tucker told the opponents that the issues of who rents the units and whether there has been a lack of community involvement do not fall within the purview of the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The projects received the unanimous approval of the ZBA members who were present (Tucker, Alfred Buccilli, John Lopes, and Arthur Pelton; member Nick D’Angelo was absent), but with the following restrictions: All of the residential micro-units units will be leased only to tenants who do not own cars and that this restriction will be a permanent one applicable to any future owner of the properties.