Developer Sebastian Mariscal doesn’t own Allston site
For weeks, Sebastian Mariscal’s Allston apartment project has been the talk of Boston.
His bold proposal to build 41 units on North Beacon Street — with no parking — spawned widespread news coverage and debate around the city. Mariscal eventually won city approval to construct a revised version of his project with a small number of parking spaces.
But in the days since, a small wrinkle has arisen: Mariscal does not own the North Beacon Street property where he pitched his controversial housing complex. A legal battle is now brewing between Mariscal and the property’s owner, who is considering selling it to another firm.
The Mount Vernon Co., a major local developer, said Monday that it has put 37-43 North Beacon under agreement and will build its own housing complex on the site.
“When this property was brought to us, we felt it fit perfectly with our company’s strategy of developing environmentally friendly residential communities,” said Bruce A. Percelay, chairman of Mount Vernon Co., which is also building the so-called Allston Green development project.
The sudden turn of events has rankled current residents and left city officials struggling to figure out who controls the site and what they are proposing to build.
Mariscal could not be reached for comment Monday. An employee at his company, Sebastian Mariscal Studios, issued a statement indicating that the property’s current owner, Arthur Toukhmanian, is trying to break a prior agreement to sell it.
“The seller’s attempt to cancel the contract is being contested,” the statement said. “We were told as recently as last week the property is not under agreement with anybody else. We can’t comment any further,” indicating the matter was subject to litigation.
Reached by phone Monday, Toukhmanian said only, “We don’t know nothing for sure yet,” adding that he needed to speak with a lawyer before commenting further.
Mariscal, who has offices in Boston and California, won approval from the Boston Redevelopment Authority on March 14 to build 41 housing units in a stylish complex with 35 parking spaces.
Initially, he had proposed building the apartments without any parking, arguing Boston needs car-less housing to accommodate the growing number of young renters who prefer to bike or take public transit. Parking spaces, he argued, only add to the costs of the units.
But his utopian view clashed with some Allston neighbors who asserted that residents of the complex who own cars would end up parking on already clogged streets nearby.
The project began to unravel last week, when word circulated that another developer was interested in the property. A current tenant, Rachel Kopp, said she and others heard Mount Vernon Co. was buying the property instead, upending weeks of discussion with Mariscal.
“We’re caught in the middle of a developer’s war here and somebody should tell us what’s going on,” said Kopp. She said she is one of nine tenants living in a seven-bedroom house on the property.
A spokeswoman for the BRA said there is no requirement that developers prove ownership of a property before they propose to redevelop it. “It’s unfortunate time has been spent building consensus on the approved project at 37 North Beacon,” Melina Schuler said. “It’s privately owned land, so the BRA does not have purview to step in. Any new developer would be required to submit filings and go through the community process again.”
Mount Vernon Co. is currently turning a two-block section of Brainerd Road and nearby Commonwealth Avenue into one of the largest housing developments in Allston. The $125 million Allston Green project includes 500 residences featuring an array of environmental features, from recycled materials to energy efficient appliances, to conservation measures such as water meters for individual apartments.