Woodberry residents on Thursday evening got their first look at some revised, if familiar-looking plans for a new apartment building where two 1840s stone mill houses were demolished in May against the community’s wishes.
It’s really only one site, technically; the five-story, 52-unit building designed by Canton-based JP2 Architects would go up at 3511 Clipper Road. The adjacent property at 3523 Clipper Road would be left largely undeveloped, aside from a small green amenity space for tenants that would potentially incorporate some of the stones from the demolished mill homes.
Gordan Godat, co-principal of the architecture firm, shared early renderings with Woodberry Community Association members at a meeting on Thursday night. The images suggested a similar design to the one Baltimore’s Urban Design and Architecture Advisory Panel, or UDAAP, approved for the controversial project’s former developer-architect team in January, namely the incorporation of grey fiber cement board throughout.
Beyond giving residents a glimpse, Godat was there to gather community feedback to pass on to the property owner, Woodberry Station LLC, whose resident agent, Katherine Jennings, was not in attendance.
The same firm is now doubling as the developer on the resurrected project, he said. Seven weeks ago, a demolition crew tore down two stone houses, both more than 170 years old, that residents had been promised would be preserved as part of a 55-unit apartment building. Christopher Mfume’s CLD Partners was the developer on the project at the time.
But he resigned after the surprise demolition, saying he had nothing to do with it. The hired architecture firm, PI.KL Studio, and development consultant Al Barry also left, leaving Woodberry Station LLC to start anew. The owner and the demolition contractor were hit with some fines as a result.
Godat said Jennings approached him about three weeks ago to work on the revived project.
Woodberry Station LLC now wants to construct the apartments without any parking, a departure from the former plans that’s nevertheless permitted under the property’s transit-oriented development zoning designation. There would be some temporary bicycle parking out front, Godat said.
Several neighbors were less than pleased to hear about the lack of parking spaces, noting that there will be delivery drivers, cabs, visitors and other traffic brought to the area—not to mention tenants’ cars—that would share already-limited spots on Woodberry’s narrow roads.
Others protested the height, saying it will obscure picturesque views of the neighborhood, where residents are now weighing if they want to live in a designated a local historic district. A few asked Godat if the developer would consider removing one or two stories from the design.
“You’re saying the zoning says that you don’t have to have parking, but that’s not what this area requires,” protested Christy Bergland, who lives directly across the street from the planned building. “This area requires parking if you’re gonna have another building. And it has to work within the context of what is already here.”
Godat described the design of the units themselves as “fairly straightforward and simplified.”
A small number of the studios would have Juliet balconies, and the one-bedrooms situated on one of the corners of the structure would have walk-out balconies. He said Woodberry Station LLC is open to having a local artist paint a mural on the building’s south side.
While Godat said the developer is offering to reincorporate some of the historic stone from the lost houses into the outdoor amenities, as well as indoor spaces if there’s enough left over, some weren’t thrilled by the idea.
Sheri Higgins, president of the Woodberry Community Association, said she’d rather see the neighborhood’s characteristic stone made visible on the exterior of the building.
“I don’t know why it would be used in an amenity for the residents when we’re the ones that suffered that.”
Others are still dealing with trust issues, wary of working with the same property owner who presided over the project when the homes were demolished.
Brennen Jensen said residents have already seen that the owner (and now the developer) is “dishonest,” and “just wants to make money off these units.” He referenced the failed plan they crafted with the former team on the project over the better part of a year: “This whole dog and pony show, we thought we had something, and bam.”
Woodberry Station LLC “betrayed the developer, betrayed the architect, and completely betrayed the community,” said Nathan Dennies of the Greater Hampden Heritage Alliance, which had helped negotiate with PI.KL and CLD Partners on retaining the stone mill homes in the first level of the old plan. “When we go to these meetings, we care about this project. And we’re thinking, Is this all a complete waste of time?”
Godat was there to listen, he repeated multiple times to neighbors. “I completely understand,” he told Dennies. “I will share that with the owner and will see what can be done.”
Woodberry Station LLC plans to submit its design plans for city approval sometime in the fall, after collecting more community feedback, Godat said.
“The owner would like to move as quickly as possible,” he noted.
Higgins said residents now await the developer’s next move. “Right now we don’t really have a plan,” she said after the meeting. “We have the conversation, but until we hear from the owners what their reaction to our reaction is, we still don’t have anything.”