The Attention Homes Project proposed for the corner of 15th and Pine, being pushed by Gardner Capital, a private equity firm, is requesting so many variances and modifications it hardly resembles the underlying by-right uses of the High Density Residential zone (RH-2) where it resides.
Critics say the design is problematic because it doesn’t meet setback requirements or transition comfortably to nearby residential areas. Many believe the new project, at 35 feet and three stories, would simply be too tall for the historic Whittier neighborhood. Design aside, siting a program for at-risk young adults downtown is asking for trouble, opponents have argued. “The people that would be housed there are very vulnerable” to other homeless people in the Pearl Street area, said Melody Lyle, a High Street homeowner and a mother of five. “It’s easy access to drugs, and they’re vulnerable to predators.”
Opponents of the project also have lodged a common, high-level complaint concerning a perceived public-process sham. “Right from the beginning, it’s been ‘our way or the highway,'” Whittier Neighborhood Association president and former Planning Board member John Spitzer said. “At the so-called ‘neighborhood meetings’ with Attention Homes, all of our concerns have been ignored completely.”
First United Methodist Church, which owns the entire block, Attention Homes and Gardner Capital Development, which specializes in developing low-income housing through tax-credit financing, want to build a three-story, 40-unit apartment building that offers community and supportive services for homeless youth on a site that is currently a parking lot at 1440 Pine St. … But many neighbors of the site are already concerned, both about the size of the proposed housing complex and the population that it will serve.