Jamaica Plain’s Turtle Swamp Brewing and its landlord, Monty Gold, have filed separate lawsuits in Suffolk Superior Court to block the construction of a 39-unit apartment building that would provide affordable housing to low-income seniors and a new space for Dominican restaurant El Embajador. Two-thirds of the apartments would go to seniors making no more than 60 percent of the median income in Boston, while one-third would go to seniors making no more than 30 percent of that number. The development is proposed for 3371 Washington St. in Jamaica Plain, directly adjacent to Turtle Swamp’s patio.
The development, a collaboration between New Atlantic Development LLC and nonprofit Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC), has been approved by the Boston Planning & Development Agency and the Zoning Board of Appeal. It also has the support of the neighborhood.
So, why are the owners of Turtle Swamp Brewing and their landlord filing suits that would deny low-income seniors access to affordable housing? The short answer: parking. The slightly longer answer: parking, and a hypothetical interruption to Turtle Swamp’s business due to ongoing construction.
Turtle Swamp and Gold are both suing New Atlantic, JPNDC, and the zoning board, alleging that various zoning exemptions for the project (extra height for the building, and bypassing off-street parking requirements, mainly) are inappropriate and were issued arbitrarily. A provision of the approval is that the city would convert three on-street, public parking spaces on Washington Street into short-term parking spaces to be used by residents of the apartment building for pick-ups and drop-offs.
Turtle Swamp co-owner John Lincecum argued that the construction of the development alone could force his business to close, saying that it “simply won’t be possible to safely operate our patio or even the brewery production space with a huge construction project only feet away from our employees and the public.” Lincecum also said that converting the three public parking spaces in front of the proposed development would prohibit delivery drivers from easily delivering supplies to the brewery, thus interrupting business operations.
Neither Turtle Swamp nor Gold’s legal representative responded to requests for comment from Eater.
A representative with a housing rights group in Boston told Eater that some people are calling the new lawsuits an “existential threat” to the development.
City Councilor Matt O’Malley, who supports the JPNDC project, called the lawsuits “frivolous” and “wrong.” Teronda Ellis, chief executive of JPNDC, told The Boston Globe that these kinds of lawsuits are not a new phenomenon but noted that the city’s “housing crisis is beyond a tipping point. It’s at a boiling over point and it’s critical that we address it.”
This isn’t the first time that the potential development of affordable housing near Turtle Swamp Brewing has sparked a lawsuit. In August 2020, Gold filed a different lawsuit with the Suffolk County Superior Court to stop the construction of a housing development at 3368 Washington St. intended to provide long-term housing for the formerly homeless.
That development, a collaboration between the Pine Street Inn and nonprofit housing developer The Community Builders, would provide 202 income-restricted units — 140 designated to support people served by the Pine Street Inn, and 62 designated for people from low- and moderate-income households. It was also approved by the BPDA and the zoning board, and it also had the broad support of the neighborhood. Former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh recommended that $1.5 million in Community Preservation Act funds go toward the project, and the city committed to directing at least another $5 million in linkage payments from a new downtown tower to help Pine Street and the Community Builders fund development. Pine Street raised an additional $10 million through Walsh’s Way Home Fund to pay for various services once construction wrapped.
Despite broad support from the city and the community, Pine Street’s efforts to build affordable housing for the formerly homeless were interrupted by Gold’s lawsuit, which zeroed in on parking as its main point of contention, stating that the development’s 39 spaces would be too few to accommodate its 202 units.
“Our client’s tenants ... also rely on street parking,” wrote Stephen Greenbaum, a lawyer representing Gold, in a letter to the Zoning Board of Appeal in March 2020. “This project will, without question, significantly impact their ability to find parking, and therefore their ability to conduct their affairs in the manner they currently do.”
Soon after Gold filed that lawsuit, Turtle Swamp published an Instagram post to clarify that it was not party to the lawsuit, and that it supported the Pine Street’s mission, though it did voice concerns about other construction projects in the corridor between Washington Street and Green Street.
Pine Street and Gold eventually settled, but the lawsuit delayed the development by more than a year. (In that year, the cost of lumber tripled, a reality that will no doubt drive up development costs for the property.) Days after settling, Gold turned around and sued to block the development of more affordable housing in a city that is in desperate need of it — and this time Turtle Swamp did the same.
• Turtle Swamp Brewing, Landlord Sue to Stop Low-Income Senior Housing Development [JPN]
• Landlord Sues to Stop Affordable Housing in Jamaica Plain. Again. [BG]
• Board Approves Senior Housing Next to Jamaica Plain Brewery, Whose Owner Worries Whether He’ll Be Able to Stay Open [UH]
• Neighbor Sues to Block Pine Street Inn Project in Jamaica Plain [BG]
• Brewery’s Landlord Sues to Stop Pine Street Inn Supportive Housing, Brewery Owners Have ‘Concerns’ [JPN]
• New State Street Tower Would Help Pay for Major Project in JP to Help the Homeless [BG]
• Apartments for Homeless to Be Built in Jamaica Plain After Lawsuit Over Parking Settled With Pine Street Inn [BG]
• Lumber Futures Extend Record Rally to Top $1,500 for First Time [B]