April 2007

Thursday, April 19, 2007 - 7:00pm

Hotel Kaya

Over the last month or so, this project has evolved from a 5-story structure with 40 rooms that would require a FAR of 4.5 to a 4-story structure with 50 rooms that would require a FAR of 2. The new FAR is what would be allowed if the building were housing with the affordable housing bonus. Thus, I expect that this will sail through the BZA. To put more rooms into fewer stories, the rooms have to be pretty small: 17x12. This seems to support the stated intention to cater to visitors from Japan and Korea. I don't think that such small rooms would appeal to us natives, at least at the price they are likely to command. (But if they have hourly rates, then we have much bigger problems ;-) A lot of the structure will be underground--a 32-car garage, all of the mechanicals that don't have to be on the roof, and the laundry and other utility areas. The garage will be on the back part of the lot, under the current lot. The top of this area will become a private park for public use. They are still talking about putting one restaurant on the first floor and making the street edge lively. They intend to provide all parking required, which is 32 spaces (1 space per 2 rooms; 1 space per 10 (or is it 20?)patrons in the restaurant). They have not yet done enough design work that would generate a drawing; we might see some next month, or certainly by June. They would like to go to the BZA in 3-4 months. They are trying to address all the issues in such a way as to maximize support for the project, which is certainly refreshing.

Farmers Market

Si Shapiro has been looking in to having a farmer's market here this summer. Ideally, it would be open from mid-August to around Halloween on Tuesday or Thursday (those who attended the meeting tended to prefer Thursday) in the late afternoon. The busy time at the shopping center is 4-7, and it would be good for everyone to have the market run that late. But there are a couple of known issues that make this delightful possibility difficult to pull off. First is finding farmers. The demand for such markets is so strong that it is difficult to find enough farmers to meet it. And many farmers just don't want to deal with such markets if they have other options for selling their harvest. Second is the site. Farmers prefer to sell out of the back of a truck, which makes a parking lot the most desirable site. But that is not an option here. (Forget about the lots at the shopping center and Lesley; the respective tenants have contractual claims on them.) Thus, the only suitable site available in the neighborhood is the park next to the subway station. So the goal this year would be to convince those cranky tillers of the soil that there's enough money to be made here that would compensate them for the inconvenience of selling their corn and tomatoes to us. There is no guarantee that the market will happen this year; it might happen next year. It would be very helpful to hear from you as to whether you'd support this market (support=buy stuff), which day you would prefer to have it, and what you think of the hours.

MBTA park

Our number has come up, in a good way. We've asked for a couple of addition trash cans and to fix and improve the lighting in the park just when the T was starting to pay attention to the maintenance issues at Porter Square. The work on the lighting will begin the week of April 30, weather permitting. I'm trying to find out when the trash cans will be installed, but I've been assured that it will be before July 4.

Neighborhood Cleanup

We cleaned up quite a bit of it on Saturday. But on Sunday morning at 8:30, when I walked past some of the areas that I know were cleaned, they looked as though they hadn't been touched. This is really disappointing. We are or are inflitrated by slobs, my friends. One thing that doing such work makes you keenly aware of is cigarette butts. They are everywhere! A couple of people told me that they've contacted Christopher's and Spirit, respectively about this, and that effort seems to help. I'm told that one of those places (forget which one) had its sand-filled urn on the sidewalk stolen at regular intervals and finally gave up. The other thing that you notice is how much public drinking goes on. I picked up a lot of broken glass, bottle tops, pop tabs, and nips bottles in the MBTA park. I certainly expected some, yet I was really surprised at how much of it there was. On the other hand, I got to talking to a couple of regulars in the park, and one of them does a pretty decent Elvis, at least for a few bars.