At this week’s North End/Waterfront Neighborhood Council meeting, NEWNC supported a zoning change application for 16 Hull Street, to increase the number of apartments from 5 to 8 smaller units. Peter McGinnis, a developer with other North End buildings, recently purchased the building and plans a complete renovation.
The plan is to make 8 units out of the space, with square footages of approximately 525 sf for the 1-bedroom units and 628 sf for the 2 bedrooms up to 1061 sf for the largest unit. The first and second floor units will be duplexes.
In response to street trash concerns, McGinnis is having a central trash room so that the garbage will be put out together rather than 8 times. The renovation will take 6 months and a dumpster will take up the space of 2 parking spaces during the 4 week demolition. No changes to the exterior are planned.
Residents asked about pest control which the developer plans every 3 weeks. The building will also have sprinklers throughout the property.
There was some questions about what the minimum square footage is required for new construction apartments. McGinnis thought the minimum was 500 sf but other ZBA contacts indicate a minimum of 700 sf for studios and 950 sf for one bedroom apartments. The concern with small units is the demand from college students that have caused loud party problems in the neighborhood. Residents indicated a preference for housing that families could use and afford.
The 1 bedrooms will rent for $1500-$1800 and the 2 bedrooms for $1800-$2200. In answer to a question, McGinnis said that 95% of his other buildings rent to young professionals. In order to meet zoning requirements, he has also rented 3 parking spots from local garages to account for the 3 extra units.
The vote was 6-1 in favor of the zoning variance.
My view: As a council member, I voted against this variance. First, I generally consider zoning to be “the law” so a variance should provide significant neighborhood benefit. In this case, I question whether the plan is legal. I would not be surprised if the ZBA forces revisions during its review.
Second, I believe the units will attract college students in the size range of just over 500 square feet. Also remember, the police say that half of loud party complaints are due to young professionals. College students and young professionals tend to rent by the room which will be likely needed given the high rental rates. At best, this is transient housing and does not encourage folks to reside in the North End for long periods of time. This dynamic will continue to change the resident make-up in the neighborhood to those that only stay here for 2 years or so before they move out.