Brookline parking lot may make way for senior housing

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After several years of discussion, Brookline is seeking to move ahead with a plan to create affordable apartments for seniors on a municipal parking lot.

Officials recently invited firms to submit proposals to develop 40 to 65 housing units at the 16,000-square-foot parking lot at Kent and Station streets in Brookline Village, according to Joe Viola, Brookline’s assistant director for community planning.

The parking lot currently has 39 spaces used by local merchants mostly during the day and neighborhood residents primarily at night. A requirement set by the town is that any project not reduce the number of public spaces or alter their designated use. Any parking needed for the senior housing facility would have to be in addition to those 39 spaces.

The request for proposals requires only that developers maximize the number of affordable units, but Viola said the town’s hope is that all or a vast majority would meet that standard.

Select Board member Heather Hamilton said by e-mail that the project “sends a strong signal that Brookline values its senior population and wants to foster aging in community.”

Citing other benefits, she said it “increases the utilization of a town-owned parcel, and will not create many additional parking spaces.”

Viola said the lot’s proximity to the MBTA Brookline Village Green Line stop, town hall, stores, and restaurants make the site ideal for senior apartments.

Brookline, which developed a housing production plan in 2016 calling for using town assets where possible to build housing, becomes the latest of several area communities that have looked at municipal parking lots for the purpose.

Wellesley is considering a plan by a developer to construct apartments and condominiums at two municipal parking lots.

Newton has partnered with a developer to construct a mix of housing and retail at the Austin Street municipal lot in Newtonville.

Hamilton said in an interview that building on municipal parking lots is a creative way for municipalities to meet the challenge of providing much-needed affordable housing when they are not able to purchase land for it. She said it can also solve the dilemma of how to make better use of parking lots.

“I look at an at-grade parking lot in an urban environment and it’s such a wasted space,” she said. “It is very underutilized and we don’t make that much money on a public parking lot for the amount it costs us.”

Brookline is leaving it to the developers to determine where they would situate the parking on the site, but Viola said it is envisioned some or all the spaces would be below ground.

A citizen petition approved by Town Meeting in fall 2016 asked the town to study the possible development of senior housing on the lot. A committee appointed by selectmen evaluated the idea and, responding to a request from the town in 2018, several developers expressed interest.

At an October 2018 public hearing, some residents expressed support for the concept, but concerns also were voiced about potential impacts on traffic, parking, and the neighborhood’s character. Viola said the town is asking interested developers to address those concerns in their proposals, due Aug. 22.

“We are trying to be up front with the developers that while there is a need and is support for affordable housing on this site, there is also a neighborhood surrounding this municipal parking lot and to be aware of how this development fits into that neighborhood,” Viola said.

John Laidler can be reached at