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January 2008

DEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL FOR 1868 MASSACHUSETTS AVENUE
Peter Wasserman presented a proposal for a mixed-use development on the lot, which is currently occupied by Gourmet Express. This project can be built as of right, but a special permit is probably required for the the proposed parking solution.

The project is five floors and the building is 55 feet high. The ground floor has 4 small retail units, and the remaining floors include 27-28 condos of 600-800 sq. ft. The building would be placed along Mass Ave, closing up the curb cut there, and all vehicle traffic would enter and exit on Upland Road. The curb cut on Upland is currently at the very back of the lot; it would move about 20 feet closer to Mass Ave.

The project includes 14 bike spaces and requires 43 parking spaces: 28 for the new project, and 15 to satisfy an easement that Lesley has. Twelve spaces would be at grade; the other 31 spaces would be accommodated in a series of car stacking units. This mechanism is powered by electric motors, not the hydraulic lift of the Pemberton project collapsed a year or so ago. The claim is that it makes much less noise when in operation.

How does it work? As best I can describe it, these units are a combination of a vending machine and one of those puzzles with 15 tiles and 16 spaces. The entire unit is behind about 10 regular garage doors, but there is one car below grade, one at grade, and one above that. Each tenant has an assigned slot, behind an assigned door. To park, the tenant clicks a device in a keyring; the correct door opens when the assigned slot is at grade. Thus, the "garage" muffles the sound of the motors. This system is manufactured by Harding Steel, and one 3-car unit is installed at 347 Commonwealth Avenue.

The end of the building that would face south would be a blank wall because Mr.Wasserman expects Lesley will build something right next to it at some point, and sees no need to spend money on finishing materials that will be covered up. We suggested putting a mural on that space in the meantime, and he agreed to work with us and the arts council when the time comes.

At the meeting, Mr. Wasserman said that he expected to begin construction within 6 to 12 months. Conversations with the guy who runs Gourmet Express suggest that this time line has changed. The tenant was supposed to be out by the end of June, but that is no longer the case. Current market conditions and the mortgage meltdown may have something to do with this.

SUPPORT FOR HOTEL KAYA
We discussed the degree of support for the hotel for the purpose of writing a letter for the BZA hearing scheduled for January 24 and then postponed to February 28.