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‘It's A Perfect Storm And It's Horrible For Us’: Allston-Brighton Neighbors Worry About Development Wave

As a series of new developments is set to reshape the Brighton community, residents and community leaders Monday night voiced concerns about a four-building project proposed on Soldiers Field Road. 

A rendering of the 85-unit apartment complex

Neighbors speaking at the Impact Advisory Group meeting to discuss the project from National Development and Mount Vernon Co. raised short-term issues like traffic congestion and construction parking, plus worries about how the developments will benefit the community. 

“All these other projects are gearing up to start," said Dan Daly, an Impact Advisory Group member and Brighton resident, noting other developments in the works. "It's a perfect storm and it's horrible for us in the neighborhood."

National Development has promised project mitigation efforts, including improving intersections near the development, and it added an 85-unit residential building to the plan in March. 

National’s site at 1170-1190 Soldiers Field Road is occupied by a WBZ-TV/CBS studio facility. The other three buildings totaling 700K SF, in addition to the new apartment complex, will be designated for office and life sciences research. National has also proposed building a new home next door for the WBZ station, which was approved by the Boston Planning & Development Agency in February.

National Managing Partner Ted Tye said at the meeting that his team is working to mitigate congestion and parking issues that could arise from the project's construction. 

"It's not easy, and you've got a lot of people that you have to control," Tye said. "You've got to really hold subcontractors accountable to make it work. Even at that, it's not a perfect art, but we will come up with a plan that we will make work."

A rendering of the Brighton development's east building from the courtyard.

Like other nearby neighborhoods and towns, the Brighton-Allston area has gathered some of the life sciences overflow from Cambridge and the Seaport.

In March 2020, a 1.2M SF mixed-use development dubbed Allston Yards was approved by the BPDA and began construction a year later. In October 2021, Nexus at The Allston Innovation Corridor, a 576K SF office and R&D building, was approved.

Harvard University has planned to expand its campus to Allston. In July, the BPDA gave the green light to the first phase of the university’s proposed Enterprise Research Campus, a 900K SF mixed-use development on Western Avenue.

This isn't the first time a developer has faced pushback from Brighton residents. Last year, IQHQ faced pressure to relocate a beloved music rehearsal studio, Sound Museum, that was on the site of its proposed North Beacon Street lab development. In September, the firm agreed to help relocated Sound Museum. 

Karen Smith, another IAG member and resident, said at the meeting that she is worried about when residents will start seeing the community benefits National promised. 

"I think it's really important to push for them being front-loaded in a project so that we're not moving with years of the construction and not getting any benefits until later," Smith said. 

Of these benefits, residents focused on those that boosted economic development, including the two annual internships tenants in the building will provide, monetary contributions to after-school programming and the creation of jobs for residents.

Brighton resident John Blight said at the meeting that he is concerned some of the city money promised for park space at the development may not end up directly benefiting the neighborhood.

"That money that you're planning on giving them is earmarked because we know once money goes into the city fund, it doesn't get used the way we want it to, and we want this to be a benefit," Blight said. "There's a lot here, and we want to make sure that we're trying to help the neighborhood with dealing with the excess that those buildings bring in." 

Tye said that although some of the benefits won't be possible until construction is finished, all other community benefits will roll out when construction begins, like the design of an at-grade crossing of Soldiers Field Road to the property.

Anthony D’Isidoro, president of the Allston Civic Association, said he thinks there should be a larger construction mitigation plan for the neighborhood, rather than handling it on an individual-project basis. And he thinks developers should maintain an open line of communication with residents. 

“We're trying to manage it as best we can, and as long as we feel that our concerns and issues are being considered and it's not just them walking all over us, we've had a pretty good tolerance of the level of development,” D’Isidoro said.

D'Isidoro went on to say that although it is a lot of change for the community, he sees a lot of potential to boost Brighton residents.

“It's exciting in that sense that we are creating local economic development,” D’Isidoro said. "At the same time, hopefully, that’s going to also produce opportunities for our local residents."