Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Jamaica Towers

Perkins street and the Jamaicaway, 1905.

[Update: a reader has informed me that the correct name of the property is Jamaicaway Tower and Townhouses. Since I've known it all my life as Jamaica Towers, I'll leave my original language in the text and stand corrected in fact.]

Henry Rueter, brewer and partner in the Highland Spring Brewery at Heath and Parker streets, lived at the corner of Perkins street and the then-new Jamaicaway. Notice the other adjacent homes, each on a substantial lot, including carriage houses.

The appropriately named Jamaica Towers rises above the Emerald Necklace, providing its inhabitants wonderful views, while making a sore thumb of itself for those availing themselves of the adjacent parkland. The article transcribed below describes one minor speed bump along the way to the developers making their money and the residents gaining their views. Interesting to note was the involvement of the BRA in declaring the property as 'blighted.' Nice trick, that. Somehow, I doubt they'd get away with it today. Note below that there is no mention of Olmsted's Emerald Necklace.

Boston Globe June 12, 1964

Hearing on High-Rise Apts.

Jamaicaway Plan Stirs Row

One Jamaica Plain resident Thursday referred to a vacant piece of land along the Jamaicaway as a "glamorous dump" as he supported a plan for a high rise apartment building on the site while a neighbor termed the proposed development "a monstrosity."

The debate for and against the $7 million development at Perkins st. was focused on a Boston City Council hearing to determine whether state legislation limited building heights to 65 feet along the Jamaicaway should be accepted.

Only 65 residents attended the hearing along with some legislators, with 12 voicing support for the high rise plan and an equal number speaking against it. But both sides claimed the support of hundreds of other residents and petitions with lists of signatures were entered into the records.

The state legislation was initiated by both State Sen. James Hennigan of Jamaica Plain and State Rep. William Carey to block the luxury apartment development planned by educator and economist Arnold Soloway and several otter principals under a limited dividend corporation.

"There has been a bill of goods sold out there by the real estate people," said Carey, referring to petitions gathered by residents in support of the plan.

He had support from Sen. Hennigan who said he objected to the designation put on the vacant area by the Boston Redevelopment Authority as "blighted," and from State Rep. Charles R. Doyle of West Roxbury who declared that property values of existing homes in the area would decrease because of the high rise structure.

In sharp disagreement were State Rep. Stephen C. Davenport of Jamaica Plain and State Rep. James Kelly of Roxbury.

"It is hard to imagine a poorer piece of legislation," said Davenport, "that's a violation of home rule."

Kelly said an investment of $7 million "is good for Jamaica Plain." He declared his office is close to the location and no one has called him to say they opposed the high rise plan.

Dr Elizabeth Kleiman of 66 Perkins st. opposing the high rise, said it should be closer to the city. Atty. John J. Walsh of 15 Pondview av. urged the council to "repudiate" the plan.

Soloway said his group is contemplating a 282-unit, 29-story building which because of the sloping nature of the land area, would not be visible from adjacent areas and would not obstruct any abuttors since it occupies only six percent of the land area. He projected rentals at from $130 to $450 - the latter for four duplex penthouses. He said the firm also is considering a shuttle service for residents to downtown areas to encourage people to leave their cars at home.