Community Featured Meetings

Controversy Continues at Cross Street Plaza; Residents Association (NEWRA) Opposes Citizens Bank

It was another heated community meeting regarding the proposed building and tenants at Cross Street Plaza. Charter Cross Street LLC, an affiliate of Charter Realty at 198 Hanover Street, filed with the Boston Zoning Board of Appeal to change the legal occupancy at the property to include a Citizens Bank with an ATM. The tenant would occupy the center of the three bays in the new building. Recall that Starbucks, another proposed tenant, was recently shot down by city officials after significant community opposition.

Members of the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) voted to oppose the application, with 9 in favor and 11 against. The hearing and advisory vote to city officials was held on September 13, 2018 at NEWRA’s monthly meeting.

Efforts by meeting moderators, Charter Realty’s Karen Johnson and Citizens Bank’s Amanda Marshall to limit discussion to the Citizens Bank proposal were unsuccessful as abutters and other residents focused on their distaste for the overall design of the building. Despite significant opposition in 2016 to the glass and metal design of the one-story (plus mezzanine) building, Charter Realty has already received city permits for core and shell construction. The Boston Redevelopment Authority, BRA (now, the Boston Planning & Development Agency, BPDA) has also approved the design as part of their small project review.

In particular, abutter Angie Romano (Romano Florist) expressed extensive opposition to the building plans as expressed by attorney George Jabour at the NEWRA meeting (03:42 in video and again at 13:50). Jabour implied the mezzanine level heights, up to 10 feet higher than the pre-existing structure on the Hanover Street side, may have been misrepresented by the proponent “as of right” under Article 54-18 of the zoning code. This view was disputed by Charter Realty’s Johnson who cited the provisions of Article 49A of the Greenway Overlay District zoning that apply to this parcel. Johnson implied that an adjoining structure on the lot, at 54 Salem St., is 43 feet high and therefore allows the added height (14:30 in video).

NEWRA’s zoning chair, Victor Brogna, followed up after the meeting indicating that Article 54 of the Boston Zoning Code contains a Section 54-18 titled Roof Structure and Building Height Restrictions providing in part, “The height of any building existing as of June 24, 1985, shall determine the allowed building height on that lot subsequent to total or partial demolition or destruction of such building.” NEWRA’s President McGee requested the City provide the building plans that were filed with Inspectional Services.

Citizens Bank has operated at the corner site for several years. The renderings below were provided to show the updated design of the bank. There would be an ATM, bank with offices and a mezzanine (click to enlarge).

The debate regarding the building and its approval by the city continued for most of the 25 minute discussion. At one point, a NEWRA member asked the Sergeant of Arms to intervene (22:40 in video).

NEWRA’s opposition of the Citizens Bank at 198 Hanover St. joins that of the North End / Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC) which also voted against the proposal. Both neighborhood groups are advisory to the city’s Board of Appeal that will make the final determination.

24 Replies to “Controversy Continues at Cross Street Plaza; Residents Association (NEWRA) Opposes Citizens Bank

  1. There is a dangerous situation in front of Lincoln Wharf at 357 Commercial Street. The bicycle lanes north and south will not allow pedestrians leaving and entering the building to cross Commercial Street. This is definitely a hazard to folks living at 357 young and old. Can NEWA help this problem before a serious accident happens?

    1. I thought the topic was about the council shooting down the citizen bank on Cross St. Did I miss something?

  2. “The bicycle lanes north and south will not allow pedestrians leaving and entering the building to cross Commercial Street.”

    There is a pedestrian crossing of the bike lanes for people getting in and out of cars along the curb, and a crossing of Commercial St at Battery St just a short distance away from that. What’s the issue?

    1. Its not an issue of safety, they just hate change and therefore hate bike lanes. If it was a safety concern for the young and elderly, they’d ask that cars be banned from the North End but its crickets because of selective outrage.

    2. I’ll agree this post has nothing to do with the article at hand.

      However, in regards to the post regarding the issue with the bike lane, as someone who lives in the building in question that has to cross Commercial Street regularly, I beg to differ that there is not a safety concern. I’ve seen bikes blithely ignore the crosswalk in front of the building zipping through it without stopping or even slowing. I’ve also seen bikes blow through the red lights intended for the bicyclists on the corner at the crossing of Commercial and Battery Streets (twice in the last week). An elderly person or a child may not be able to get out of the way quickly. I always make sure I look both ways before I cross the bike path and make sure no bikes are coming before crossing onto the sidewalk to cross, the same as when crossing a street with vehicular traffic.

      1. Wow two in the last week? How many cars have you seen running reds, rolling through stop signs, double parking, speeding, failing to yield, blocking the box, etc.

        Like I said, if the concern was about safety, you’d want cars banned. But you don’t.

        1. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to hang out and count the number of bicyclists (or cars for that matter – and yes, I’ve seen them) who don’t follow the rules. But if you take the 2-3 minutes I am standing waiting to cross the street, and multiply it exponentially, I am sure the number of bicyclists (and cars) who don’t follow the rules is far more than two.

          I’ve been sworn at by a bicyclist (not at this location) when I was in the middle of the crosswalk, with a red light, and had the right of way. I’ve also been nearly hit by cars while in a crosswalk when I’ve had the right of way as well.

          Please point out to me where I said I wanted bicycles banned. I don’t believe I ever said that I wanted anything banned. But I don’t think it is too much to ask that people, whether in cars, on a bike, or on foot, follow the rules of the road so safety is not an issue for anyone.

        2. I agree with Belle, it’s those people riding 4,000-lb bikes who have been hitting and killing people throughout the city!

          Oh wait… those are people in cars.

          I’ll take the occasional swearing over death.

          1. Jared –

            IMO, it’s the inattention, not the means of getting around, that gets people killed. That includes the pedestrians who are constantly looking down at their cell phones, instead of being aware of their surroundings. Everyone needs to take responsibility for their own actions.

            If everyone paid more attention – regardless of what mode they choose to get around – then no one (cyclist, driver, pedestrian, skateboarder, etc.) would have to worry about anyone getting hit, killed, or injured, or the repercussions of being involved in an accident.

            And that with being said, I’m going to hop on my nice safe broom right now and fly away from this conversation.

    1. Wow, how true, this isolationist approach to what a few people ‘don’t’ want in a bustling business area is totally out of control.
      What better neighbor could you have than a bank, limited hours, clean, maintained and pay their bills?

    2. Start coming to NEWRA meetings! Only 20 people voted during the last meeting, which is hardly representative of the neighborhood.

      1. you cannot just go to a NEWRA meeting and vote. You must be a paid member and I think there used to be and might still be some requirements that you attend a few meetings before you can vote

  3. In regards to the issue with having a bank in that location, I’m not getting the opposition. They certainly could afford the rent, and it would be far better than failed restaurants or empty storefront.

  4. If they have a plan here, no one is seeing or can afford it. These are commercial interests and I don’t see how any situation benefits the neighborhood. I do see where empty shells hurt the neighborhood.

  5. Who is NEWRA to reject the design of a bank? I just don’t get it. Frankly I don’t think their opinion matters.

    NEWRA does not do a good job representing the opinion of residents. They are fighting something that literally 95% of the neighborhood doesn’t care about.

    It is a regular bank. The design is nothing out of control. NEWRA is doing nothing except causing controversy and infringing on private property rights. Who cares what they say.

      1. They don’t have much say in the city because they don’t really represent the residents of the north end of there concerns.

        Once again, I don’t think any north end residents truly have an issue with the design of this bank. I’m sure it’s not many residents list of neighborhood concerns.

        When the residents voiced their concerns about Starbucks th city listened. They acted. The city listens to its residents not irrelevant boards like NEWRA.

        1. The residents had an issue with the design of the BUILDING…and the city ignored it and approved it anyway. This was before the bank presented their plans. The bank will just fit in with the design of the BUILDING which the residents stated they didn’t support. Go back and look at the meetings on YouTube.

          I spoke to our new city councilor on this issue and she agreed that the fact the city moved forward after the neighborhood group voted it down was a concern to her.

  6. The residents did not have an issue with the design of the building. A half dozen people complaining at a meeting had an issue with the design.

    I don’t like the DESIGN of many things in the neighborhood. I’m not a huge fan of the new apartment building on Salem St. Doesn’t mean I have the right to stop it because it’s not my taste. Same goes for NEWRA.

    most importantly. The city cannot just go denying private businesses permits because a few residents and a group don’t like the design. It’s just not legal. Not how it works. It would open law suit after law suit as well as set a bad precedent for us all. It is private property and they are following the law.

    1. Then why is there a process for comments? The city could just go out, make sure everything is Legal and approve every design. But that’s not the way it currently works…the city solicits resident’s concerns. Is it just to make a few people feel as though the city cares what they think?

      1. The process is there for to make sure laws and zoning is being followed. It is also there for LEGITIMATE concerns. Concerns that will effect quality of life. Concerns that will effect neighbors and other residents.

        And when the concern is legitimate the process has worked. Recently the city sided and helped the neighborhood with the nursing home and Starbucks.

        Can NEWRA start dictating the design of new restaurant logos? The color I paint my building?

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