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Developer eyes adding 220 housing units near BU in Allston after nixing plan for Sassoon beauty school

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  May 14, 2013 02:00 PM

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A developer is seeking city approval to expand a two-story building on Commonwealth Avenue in Allston by adding four new floors with 220 residential units and to renovate an existing ground-level retail space.

The proposal for 1047 Commonwealth Ave. is revised from plans approved by the city five years ago.

The original project, backed by Elan Sassoon, the son of legendary hair stylist Vidal Sassoon, called for building a $22-million beauty school called The Academy for Hair and Skin.

The city approved construction of that project in spring 2008. It was supposed to have been completed by the following spring.

But the plans ultimately fell through.

“There are a couple of significant reasons,” said a recent letter to the city from Michael Argiros, principal of the developer, Charles River Realty Investors, LLC. “First and foremost was the crash of the real estate market and the US economy. Equally important was the departure from the ownership/development team of Mr. Sassoon, who was both the name and the appeal for the project as it had been envisioned.”

Argiros’ letter, sent to the Boston Redevelopment Authority in late March, notified the city’s development review agency about the project's proposed changes and asked the authority to uphold the approval it granted in 2008.

“I kindly request your confirmation that these changes will not increase the impacts of the project and that no further review is required,” the letter said.

The original plan, first presented to the city in late 2007, called for expanding the building to be five stories tall and about 90,000 square feet, housing a beauty school reception area, salon, retail space, offices, a student lounge, an instructors’ lounge, eight classrooms, a conference room, an auditorium, a photo studio, a student café, an esthetics clinic and 178 dormitory beds for students of the beauty school.

The new proposal calls for expanding the building to be six stories tall and about 105,000 square feet, housing one space at street-level for commercial or retail use and 220 single-room-occupancy residential units. Six of the units would each be 316 square feet; 108 units would each measure 340 square feet; and 106 units would each be 240 square feet.

“The ownership team has wrestled with the highest and best use as the real estate market has begun to rebound,” said Argiros’ letter. “After careful consideration and analysis, it was determined that a single room occupancy program designed for occupancy by graduate students and young professionals would be the optimal use at this location.”

The existing building at 1047 Commonwealth Ave. is about 45,000 square feet and currently houses a T-Mobile retail store. The property measures about a half-acre and is located in the busy Packard’s Corner area of Allston on the western edge of Boston University’s Charles River campus.

“The primary objective of the project remains – to take advantage of 1047 Commonwealth Avenue’s strategic location along a major educational, young professional corridor that extends through dense urban neighborhoods with proximity to a preeminent university,” said Argiros’ letter.

“This new building program will strengthen the appeal of Commonwealth Avenue as a location to live, work, and attend graduate school while continuing to provide an active ground floor use that will increase pedestrian activity,” he wrote. “The project will be built to a height and mass that is in keeping with the existing context of the surrounding structures yet, takes advantage of access to mass transit to support the smart growth policies advocated by the city and the Commonwealth. The result will be a mixed-use project that will contribute to the life and vitality to the Allston-Brighton neighborhood 24 hours a day.”

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