An application to the City Council for a special permit to raze a building at 163 Shirley Ave. and replace it with a five-story mixed-use building brought Revere’s struggle with housing into focus this week.
Larry Simione, the lawyer representing the applicant and David Barsky the architect designing the project made the case to the council. The first floor of the plan calls for two large retail spaces while floors two to five will have 32 studio and small one-bedroom units. Barsky, who has designed other new buildings on Shirley Avenue said the plan fits with the revitalization of the neighborhood.
“Everyone has witnessed the transformation going on Shirley Avenue,” said Barsky who emphasized that none of the units in the new building will have parking.
“When you combine the need for housing together with the need for transportation, Shirley Avenue is within walking distance of the T, the zoning board saw the opportunity to increase density without impacting traffic,” said Barksy.
But Yin Li, whose property directly abuts the property of the applicant, told the council the project would have a dramatic and negative impact om her home where she and her family have lived for 25 years. Li told the council she was worried about homes in the neighborhood losing their views, tenants in the upper floors of the proposed building looking down into her yard and invading the privacy of her children and senior family members. She also raised concerns about trash flowing over into her backyard as well as potential noise and traffic.
Simione said the developer had conducted a shadow study to ensure that the new building would not block the sunlight from any existing buildings. He also said efforts were being made, such as plans or a tall fence, to protect the abutter.
Councillors questioned if the developer would be willing to reduce the height to four stories rather than five. And that led to questions about why the city is allowing so many mixed-use projects with housing on upper floors to move forward.
Councillor Dan Rizzo stressed he was not anti-development and he supported revitalization, but he said the city is issuing so many permits for housing without anything to support it.
“It should not be that way,” said Rizzo adding none of the surrounding cities or towns were permitting the same level of housing with mixed use projects because the wanted to maintain the character of their communities.
Councillor Richard Serino also questioned why every parcel of land in the city seemed to have housing squeezed onto it.
But other councillors favored the project.
“I’m old enough to remember when you couldn’t walk down Shirley Ave,” said Councillor Anthony Zambuto who added because of new development it was now the gateway to the beach.
Council President Gerry Visconti said he would wait until the zoning subcommittee meeting on the project before making comments. However, he also said he valued what Ms. Li said.
“It would be in your best interest to sit down with abutters and try to make it work,” Visconti told the applicant.