The 600 Receives Favorable Action from the Planning Board Board: Favorable to All Variances Except Parking Variances

The 85-unit mixed use apartment building and restaurant proposed for the top of the hill on Broadway has passed through the Planning Board unanimously, with the only sticking point on a recommendation for the parking variance.

The Planning Board met on Monday night, Dec. 9, to discuss The 600 once again and the recommendations that would be forwarded to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) if approved. The Board had met on the proposal before, which has been brought by Volnay Capital and John Tocco – formerly of Encore Boston Harbor.

The project has had a good deal of support, but there has been some concerns about the size of the building – but most concerns come around parking. There are 37 spaces for the building, and some on the Board feel that isn’t enough.

The Board voted on that variance, and it lost by a close 3-2 vote.

There has been a split on the Planning Board and ZBA for more than a year whereas some on the Boards feel that more parking needs to be provided in projects brought to the City. Meanwhile, another train of thought – one which Mayor Carlo DeMaria agrees with – is that buildings such as The 600 should have less parking and be marketed to people who do not want to drive.

Tocco said they are in agreement, noting that they don’t believe their residents will own cars. They also believe that the proposed restaurant – to be operated by The Square Deli owners – would not need any additional parking than that which is on the street and on site.

“There are 37 spaces on site and our traffic studies have shown that it is adequate parking,” he said. “The market we’re looking at is not for someone like me that has a car…The parking analysis showed there are more than 50 spaces available within walking distance for the restaurant just on Broadway.”

He also said there is a municipal lot 1,000 feet from the project on Lexington Street, and also some parking available after 4 p.m. in the Parlin School lot.

That market comes in the form of young professionals – many like Mike Dobbins who are working at Encore and want an affordable place near the resort to live. Others are empty-nesters looking to downsize form a house and owning a car.

Tocco said they agreed to unbundle the parking fee from the rent, meaning that a parking fee isn’t lumped in with rent payments. They will also have indoor bike storage, a Blue Bike Station and are looking at Zip Car. They have also committed to excluding residents from the City’s residential parking sticker program.

City Planner Tony Sousa said he believes it’s a project that could be the first to really benefit from the transportation improvements made over the last three years.

“I think it is a project that will be able to capitalize on all the work we’ve done on Bus Rapid Transit, shuttles and Blue Bikes,” he said.

The parking study, done by Vanasse & Associates, showed there is adequate parking for the development, with a strong program to divert residents away from cars, and for the restaurant. It was estimated that 30 percent of the trips to the restaurant would not be by automobile.

The project will move to the ZBA for a hearing on Monday, Dec. 16.

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