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HDG King Street LLC, owner of the former J.B. Hospital and Curahealth Boston North Shore property on King Street has filed a Chapter 40B Comprehensive Permit application with the city.
Earlier this year in April, the developer received 40B site approval for its plans to build King’s Residences, a 133-unit residential development on the 3.2 acre site with 34 units being designated as affordable. The 40B application allows developers to bypass local zoning and planning regulations provided a minimum of 20 percent of the proposed units is affordable. The reason the developer can use 40B is because Peabody does not meet the 10 percent threshold of affordable housing in the city.
“It’s certainly not the project I wanted to see there and I tried repeatedly to explain to the residents to the best of my ability that this was an option that could be taken,” said Ward 4 Councilor Ed Charest. “I think now that the application is filed with the city, they see the reality that’s out there.
“Many people say they were told it would never happen, but the reality is now you have to make your own judgment because here it is. I’m not against affordable housing at all, but I warned people this would happen if they didn’t work with developers.”
Since acquiring the property in December, 2017, HDG has pitched several options for the property, its latest being an age-restricted 55+ condominium development. In early January, 2020, HDG abruptly changed course, saying that “given the site costs and cleanup needed, our only option is to build a multi-residential project of some type” and that “given the continued opposition to the age-restricted condo project,” its only option was to move forward with a 40B project.
“I was in favor of the 55 project even though it wasn’t a perfect thing, there was a lot we could continue to work on there,” said Charest. “Instead, now the project is going forward with 23 more units than the 55 and there also will be more problems with parking.”
Charest said he has heard from many of his constituents, many of whom also preferred the over-55 proposal.
“They thought it was a real good project even though they wanted fewer units,” Charest said. “Most of them are at that age now and they would consider living there now that they are older. We know we need housing for the older generation who don’t want to own three- or four-bedroom homes anymore, and that senior housing proposal would have also been beneficial to the city as it would have opened up the housing market.”
School committee member Jarod Hochman lives close to the site and he and many neighbors have actively fought the project.
“We wanted a project that doesn’t destroy the neighborhood and this one doesn’t add anything but problems to the city,” he said. “This is still a long way from a shovel in the ground and we are still committed to being involved. It’s already a congested neighborhood and now with the approval of 38 units on Endicott down the road, it’s going to be even worse in terms of kids walking to school and traffic, as there will be more kids walking and more buses.”
The ZBA has not scheduled a date for the hearing and he hopes to initiate a dialogue with the developer.
Hochman said the neighbors are planning to meet prior to the ZBA meeting.
“I have personally reached out to the developer’s attorney eight months before they filed, hoping we could sit down and talk, but they wouldn’t talk to anyone but the mayor or ward councilors, but we are still hopeful to talk and put something together that works for everybody, that’s where we stand.”
HDG attorney, Jason Panos of Peabody, did not respond to a phone call asking for comment.