-By Cary Shuman
Precinct 6 Councilor Linda Calla hosted a community meeting Monday night at Temple Tifereth Israel to discuss a proposed project for 43 units of senior housing for the site currently occupied by the synagogue and its parking lot on Veterans Road.
Residents, town councilors, Police Chief Terence Delehanty and Fire Chief Paul Flanagan, and members of the Temple Tifereth congregation, led by President Sandra Pellegrino, listened as David Ennis, director of Affirmative Investments and Clifford J. Boehmer of Davis Square Associates gave a presentation about the plans that would also include the construction or extensive renovation of a new temple on the property.
George Bernstein, attorney for Temple Tifereth Israel, opened the forum by stating to Temple members, “What’s important from the temple’s perspective is that you know whatever project is going to take place here, it’s not going to eliminate the temple. Make no mistake, the project is not about the temple closing down; the project is about a portion of the building from the sanctuary portion on that is going to be used for the housing project – [and for the other part] President Sandy Pellegrino and her committee have been working tirelessly to make sure that they come up with the very best plan so we can have the best temple possible and that we can do it in a manner that will ensure its longevity.”
Adam Berman, administrator of the non-profit Chelsea Jewish Foundation, who is partnering with Temple Tifereth Israel on the project and would operate the housing project, said the proposal calls for “redeveloping part of the land in to an affordable housing project for seniors with [health care and assisted living] services.”
Ennis, who has worked with Chelsea Jewish Foundation on three successful senior housing projects in Chelsea, said the plan for the Temple Tifereth Israel site is “still in formation.”
“The reason we want to meet with the [Winthrop] community is that we want your input and to be a part of the process,” said Ennis.
Ennis said the housing project would serve seniors of different income levels. “Some of the units will be market-rate units; some of it will be for people whose income is less than $45,000 a year; and a few units would be for people whose income is less than $20,000 a year. The idea is to create housing for all kinds of people.”
Boehmer, an architect, said the plans are “very, very early in the process.”
Boehmer said that the housing project would likely include 43 units (37 one-bedroom, 6 two-bedroom) for seniors, with the building situated along Veterans Road. He said plans could call for retaining the temple [sanctuary, classrooms, and offices] as it is “in a more compact and more sustainable building, one that could be operated well into the future.”
Boehmer said the proposal for the new site plan is “to remove all of the existing buildings on the site; push the housing piece as far west as we can so it’s making a nice street frontage on Veterans Road; and reorienting the temple building and trying to get more green space on the site which we think is an environmentally sound idea and makes it a more pleasant place on the outside of the building.”
Boehmer said an application has been submitted to the state for funds for the project.
“We think we have a good sound proposal, but it’s very competitive and we don’t really know if we’ll get funded the first time around,” said Boehmer. “The most optimistic we could be for the start of construction would be the spring of next year .”
Councilor Jeanne Maggio asked if people of all denominations would be able to rent a unit in the building. Ennis replied that housing would be available to people of all denominations.
“Certainly people from the temple are hoping to live here, but we’ll be using public monies, so there’s no restriction on who lives here,” said Ennis.
Maggio also asked about the number of parking spaces available for the site. “We have 47 spaces on this parcel and another eight or nine across the street [in a Temple-owned parking lot],” responded Boehmer.
Pellegrino, president of Temple Tifereth Israel for the past eight years, said members are excited about the plans.
“The project looks like a great thing for the congregation as well as for the town of Winthrop,” said Pellegrino. “We saw their work in Chelsea and it was just beautiful. There will still be a temple in Winthrop and that’s our main concern. The town will be getting tax monies from the senior housing and we’ll have a nice new temple that will be enjoyable for our members.”
The Winthrop Town Council heard a similar presentation for the project given by Boehmer and Tara Mizrahi of Affirmative Investments at its meeting Tuesday night.
Town Council President Jeffrey Turco said the plans for the Temple Tifereth Israel site would have to be reviewed by the Winthrop Planning Board who would then make a recommendation to the Town Council.