Once again, the Planning Board comes down to a philosophical dilemma.
While the city and the region are at a generational crossroads when it comes to parking and traffic – and just how people get around a place like Everett – frequently those hard discussions happen at the Everett Planning Board.
That was the case on Monday night when Volney Capital introduced its 85-unit, 33 parking space, mixed use apartment building to the public and the Board.
There was a great deal of support from those who believe Everett has to build more such properties and people need to depend less on their cars, and more on public transit and ride-shares.
There was also a great deal of dissent from residents, many of whom were abutters, who felt that without enough parking, the project would tank and its troubles would leach onto them.
“It’s a beautiful building,” said Member Leo Pizzano. “There’s no argument about that. But does it belong there? Questionable.”
That set the tone for the discussion, which is a major policy decision that will make or break a city like Everett in the coming years.
John Tocco, formerly the community relations liaison for Encore, introduced the project with his fellow team members, including Ricky Beliveau of Volney. Beliveau has done several smaller projects in South Boston, East Boston and Chelsea, but this would be his first in Everett – and it is a project he is very excited about.
“We really want to build something special for the residents and for the community,” said Tocco. “We have every intention on staying here a long time…We want to build something everyone enjoys. We want to do more in Everett. We aren’t going to slop it up and then go off to DC or Washington state. We’re here to stay.”
The team explained the project at 596-602 Broadway would be targeted to a modest luxury price range to attract young people working at their first jobs – perhaps many employees of Encore – and older adults looking to downsize but stay in Everett. It is a product that is complimented by a restaurant concept on the ground floor by Everett’s Chris Moreira – owner of the Square Deli.
Moreira said he plans to move his popular deli into the new building, where he would offer quick sandwiches and continue his catering business. However, in the back he would open a full-service restaurant that would cater to the neighborhood and the new residents in the building.
The six-story building does have too many stories, but in actuality is only three feet above the allowed limit in the area – which is a pioneering area of the City between Everett Square and Glendale.
The issue came down to parking and traffic. There are 33 spaces, but the zoning in that area would require more than 200 parking spaces for a project of that size.
The development team said they are catering to a clientele that doesn’t want a car and doesn’t need a parking spot. They are people who want to use public transportation, bicycles, and ride-shares – and live minimally as 75 percent of the units are studios or one-bedrooms.
“We are not even marketing this to someone who feels they need a car and a parking spot,” said Tocco. “If you’re someone like me that drives a big truck and has two kids, then you’re not even going to look at this place.”
Some agreed, saying that the momentum of the casino is taking the City to a housing product like this one, which is dubbed ‘The 600.’
“I’ve seen where Everett’s been and where I’d like to see it go,” said Rich Eliseo, who had served closely with Tocco in visioning for the City on Everett United. “I understand the parking. It’s tough, but where do we start? We want to better Everett. I think parking is a problem. We know that. To bring Everett back, we can’t bring it back to where it was. We have to bring it forward. We have to start somewhere. We don’t have the land like other communities to build a big parking facility…Where are we going? We have to start somewhere. Let’s start here.”
But others said it was a mistake to think along the lines that building more parking brings more cars. That’s because the cars are already here, they said, and the traffic jams already exist.
“I agree Everett needs to move forward, but 33 spaces is going to be a terrible idea,” said Shawn McCullock of Hosmer Street. “I already have a problem with people parking in my driveway to go to McKinnon’s. The fire hydrant has been struck seven times by people parking in front of it. If you’re saying parking isn’t going to be an issue, you couldn’t be more wrong.”
Member James Tarr – who is new to the Planning Board – said a lack of parking isn’t going to affect his view on the project.
“This is the way things are going,” he said. “My wife and I wanted to live in Everett because of access. I can get on the T and go to Boston when I want. I try to shed my car as much as I can. A lack of parking and 33 spaces wouldn’t stop me from being in support of this project.”
However, another new member, Shayane Rangel, said she feels like there should be more parking.
“Parking to me is very important,” she said. “It’s very critical and you’re adding more to what is there. You’re probably going to need a little more parking.”
But it comes down to the philosophy of it all, which was evidenced by a conversation between him and Moreira about new ways of living versus old ways of living.
“I’m not concerned about a lack of parking as a restaurant operator,” said Moreira. “If the food is good and they like the place, people will get there. I hardly ever drive to a restaurant I like. I just pop into an Uber. Most people take an Uber.”
But not people of the philosophy of Pizzano.
“The first thing I look for is a parking spot,” said Pizzano. “I won’t go to a restaurant if there’s not parking. That’s the difference in the philosophy between you and I…I’ve never taken an Uber and I don’t use the MBTA. It’s a difference in thoughts, that’s all.”
The matter was continued to the Nov. 12 meeting by a unanimous vote.