Thursday, December 2, 2010

Drive-thru open space

Though the rezoning that New England Development requested for the Chestnut Hill Square site will not obligate them to provide open space, there is universal recognition that open space is important enough that they ought to provide a little on a site that may include up to 100 residential units. It's important even if there end up being no residential units.

The open space provided is really inadequate. The measure of its inadequacy is the lengths NED goes to take credit for open space. Here's the open space map provided by NED:

A will probably be a nice little space. Too small to really act as a "garden" for the 100 residential units, but a real open space. Note, however, that it could only be open space. Squeezed between the apartment building to the right and the parking lot to the left, it's a leftover squib of land. There's no way it could be developed.

B is a pedestrian plaza. It's all hardscape. And, its virtues are likely oversold. But, it's arguably open space.

C and D are a stretch. They are primarily passages between the two buildings on either end of the parking lot. Such passages are a good enough feature that we should overlook the fact that they too are oversold as open space, in this case as potential gathering spaces.

E is too small to matter. I hope that it functions as a lively outdoor cafe, as advertised.

It's F and G, though, that really take the cake. They are bigger together than either the garden or the plaza. Take them off and the paucity of open space would be glaring. You can understand the developer's desire to have them on the map. But, calling them open space is an insult to the city.

Take a closer look. Click on the picture to see it full sized. Then come back. The unshaded part is F.

It's the world's first drive-thru open space! A car-centric innovation brought to you first in Newton.

It's part of the driveway. It includes parking spaces. Handicap, to be sure, but parking spaces. You can't get to a a quarter of the upper lot parking spaces without driving through one or the other of these so-called open spaces. No one will or could linger without getting run over. You might as well call all of the parking lot open space.

Again, there's no explicit legal requirement to provide open space. But, the developer wants a zoning change and a special permit to build what it's building. And open space is a quid pro quo for that very valuable benefits that the zoning and special permit confer. So, the board order (in its draft form), includes language stating that the site has open space. And, by recommending the board order, six of the city's alderman consider this open space. Paved. Parking lot. Driveway.

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