The Commons at Forest Hills
3593-3615 Washington St.
The Commons at Forest Hills development was designed to serve as the first phase of the comprehensive revitalization of the Washington Street corridor in Jamaica Plain. The Boston Redevelopment Authority's Forest Hills Improvement Initiative and the Stonybrook Neighborhood Association envision reconnecting the two neighborhoods by a continuous street lined with energetic retail and residential buildings.
About The Commons at Forest Hills
Currently under construction, The Commons at Forest Hills is situated on a site that was formerly used as a distribution depot for petroleum products. Prior to the demolition, the existing buildings were contaminated, aging and vacant. Since the location is disconnected from the surrounding communities, the development plan calls for the creation of a self-contained center for living, recreation and shopping.
When completed, The Commons at Forest Hills will encompass four buildings housing 280 one, two and three-bedroom apartments. 37 of the units are designated as affordable housing. The corridor between the Burnett Street neighborhood and Forest Hills Station will be improved by the addition of new trees, lighting and a bicycle lane. Ground level retail and commercial space sits adjacent to public amenities and ample open space. To promote the conservation of resources, the project will provide 225 bicycle parking spaces and accommodations for 69 vehicles.
The public landscape at The Commons at Forest Hills was designed to offer a variety of outdoor urban experiences. The most visible open space is centered in the heart of the project between two of the primary building entrances. The space is envisioned to serve as a modern urban plaza where residents and visitors can gather to interact and enjoy the pleasant surroundings. A combination of hardscape and various green elements act as a buffer between the apartments and the parking area. Additionally, there is a dedicated space reserved for a large commercial or retail tenant.
The Commons at Forest Hills Station is committed to creating a sustainable community through the construction and operational phases of the project. The different sustainable initiatives are monitored through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. LEEDS includes provisions for energy and atmosphere, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, materials and design innovation.
Since sustainability is directly impacted by the disruption to the surrounding natural environment, The Commons at Forest Hills Station takes advantage of the existing urban infrastructure and its close proximity to a variety of mass transportation alternatives. In fact, the project is located within walking distance to the MTBA's commuter transit lines, Orange subway line and several major bus routes.
Residents can shop for food at a nearby Harvest supermarket, and other essential retail outlets are located within the immediate vicinity of the project.
Other important sustainable features include the removal of 30,000 tons of tainted soil, open courtyards throughout the project and a public roof deck for residents. Indoor air quality is a critical component of healthy living, so all sealants, paints and adhesives will have a low VOC content. Well-lit and open staircases promote movement by stairs instead of the elevator, and a fitness center for residents encourages healthy living habits.
A Sense of Urban Renewal
The opening of The Commons at Forest Hills is intended to be a transformative event, which will give the surrounding area a warm and friendly atmosphere. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2016, and apartment reservations will be available immediately thereafter.
Incorporating Urban Design with The Commons at Forest Hills
Jamaica Plain has had its fair share of developments and redevelopments in its neighborhood. The Commons at Forest Hills seeks to make a little bit of a difference by giving a modern twist to the elements in the urban design. It is a mixed-use property in the Boston area and has achieved LEED certification while applying several streetscapes and strategies in styles that radiate contemporary development.
The building has bike lanes, along with Low Impact Development (LID) initiatives and four rooftop gardens designed to turn the space into something inviting for the residents of the building as well as those who are looking at the property itself.
According to the proposal for this project, the developers want to redevelop the site for Hughes Oil, which is where the development is located right now. In its place, the former building will be taken over by a new one that will have a total of 283 residential units. About 37 of them are considered affordable. The construction will also include ground floor retail and parking spaces.
More about This Development
The exact location of the building is at 3593-3615 Washington Street. It was primarily set to be the first part of the revitalization of this mentioned street in Jamaica Plain. The Forest Hills Improvement Initiative, along with a neighborhood association, planned for the reconnection of the two neighborhoods with the help of residential and retail buildings.
The developer first proposed for the redevelopment of the Hughes Oil property back in 2013. The site approximately had three acres of a parcel and as bordered by Washington Street to the east and the MBTA substation to the south. The property’s western part is bounded by the Amtrak or Orange Line, and the residential parcels at the southern area of Burnett Street were at the northern portion of the property.
The site faced the wide-ranging MBTA Arborway, which is a bus yard that is directly right at the front of Washington Street. During the time of the proposal, the area was partially vacant except for the warehouse buildings that were dilapidated and surrounded the paving. The developer wanted to transform the industrial land by turning it into a residential community that would also have some retail space. It would be transit-oriented and supportive of the environment to make the neighborhood more vibrant than how it was at that time.
It is easy to say that the project will be an essential component of the revitalization of the Forest Hills community. The developer intended to construct two multifamily apartments at the site that would take up 300,000 square feet of total floor area. It would contain about 289 units with active ground floor retail. The residential housing options would range from studio apartments and one to three bedroom units. These units would be designed like a townhouse, and they would front on the street where they are located now.
The developer was also very vocal about adding a street-facing space that would be for retail, restaurant, service, or residential amenity. There would be internal drives as well which would provide access to the enclosed areas of the ground floor spaces for parking.
When the project was designed, it showed that the plan was to provide a place that would help the community get more auto traffic. The building itself would have several residential and lobby front doors that would face Washington Street, and these additions would bring more pedestrian traffic to the area.
At that time, the project had an extra 50,000 square feet for the floor area, which was why it was subject to the Boston Zoning Code and the Large Project Review. Later on, it was approved, and the property has already finished its construction phase.
The proposal also included that the building will have 122,172 square feet of space and will be just 0.15 miles from the Forest Hills Station of the MBTA. According to the developers, they believe that this development will provide several benefits for the public and the Jamaica Plain neighborhood as well. One advantage is that it will add more residents to the area due to more than 280 apartment units. There are affordable units, which make the building ideal for almost everyone.
This development can also help improve the characteristics of the area, particularly its urban design as it is a construction that provides residential units after using a former industrial site. The building is also helpful in improving the pedestrian environment in Washington Street while enhancing the aesthetics and access to open space.
In 2014, the demolition of the old buildings was performed. These structures were already aging, and no one was using them, which was why their eradication was mostly welcomed by the residents. The property is now complete, and it features four buildings that have 283 units together with the affordable ones. New trees were planted, along with a bicycle lane and new street lights.
As with the plan, there is a commercial space at the ground level of the building, and it is adjacent to the community amenities in the building. There are lots of open spaces for the public to use as well. There are two vehicular access points. One is at the southern entrance where there is a garage that can house up to 16 vehicles. The other one is on the northeast side of the second building where there is the main parking garage that has a space for a total of 127 cars.
To promote sustainability, the residents are urged to use bikes. There are even bike parking spaces in the building that can handle up to 225 bicycles. As part of the project, there are also newly built bike lanes where the residents can ride their two-wheel vehicles on Washington Street. Aside from that, there are 12 accessible spaces and three for vans. The property’s access point by the south will have calming devices for both the residents and the cyclists.
The development has an improved corridor with lighting and trees planted to make the surroundings more inviting to the residents. This property is a part of the ongoing effort of the community and the whole city of Boston to create a more sustainable housing option for the residents.
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