Abington Commons, a three-building 192-unit apartment community, will be located near the Old Colony Commuter Rail stop in Abington.

Commercial developers have long been selective about building sites, carefully considering such factors as communications lines, highway access and public transportation before forging ahead with construction. But with an increasing focus on smart growth, more residential projects now being conceived with based on the amenities and assets of the surrounding area.

One such smart-growth initiative, Abington Commons, is a mixed-income apartment complex planned at 303 Summer St. near the Abington MBTA commuter rail stop.

“Smart growth is a planning philosophy meant to be very broad and regional to look at various forces that interact to create a good, livable environment,” said Alfred Wojciechowski, chairman of the Housing Committee for the Boston Society of Architects and a principal at CBT/Childs Bertman Tseckares Architects in Boston. “For example, a lot of the areas where public transportation runs has been more industrial and not where housing is, and the focus of smart growth is to conceive a plan that will allow housing in those areas.”

Abington Commons fits into the smart-growth concept because it will be transit-oriented, hopefully forcing more people out of their cars and onto public transportation, an idea that may benefit both the environment and residents, Wojciechowski said.

Abington Commons is financed by MassHousing, a quasi-governmental agency that offers loans to housing developers willing to reserve a certain number of units for affordable housing. Through MassHousing, Boston-based Beacon Residential Properties, developer of Abington Commons, secured a $23.1 million loan to develop the 192-unit complex, which will include 78 one-bedroom and 114 two-bedroom apartments in three different buildings. About 20 percent of the units in the complex will be affordable to residents living at or below 50 percent of the median income for Abington, or $22,250 for one person. Monthly market-rate rents for the apartments will range from $1,300 for a one-bedroom apartment to $1,620 for a two-bedroom apartment.

Peter Smith of Boston-based Beacon Residential Properties said that because the 34.9-acre site planned for the complex was previously used for industrial purposes, no new, undeveloped land was needed for the project, another aspect of the project that falls into the smart-growth category.

“Because we’re taking advantage of the availability of a site in the town and near the train station that was used for industrial purposes but has been kind of abandoned for a while, it already has the full infrastructure for sewer and water, which keeps [the project] from marching into the suburbs and chewing up more land.”

‘European Model’

Because it is a transit-oriented development, said Smith, the hope is to attract residents who don’t want to be forced to pay the higher prices of city living but still want the amenities and area attractions that are within walking distance of a city apartment.

“More and more people are developing transit-oriented properties and we liked this site a lot because it’s right next to the Abington train station,” said Smith. “It’s very important because people will be able to commute to Boston in 30 minutes, which means they’ll save time and money.”

Smith added that if residents of Abington Commons use the nearby commuter rail, they would be able to get to Boston in the same amount of time it takes residents of Newton, a suburban community that borders the city. Abington is located about 12 miles south of Boston.

Steve Zalecky, project manager for the development through The Martin Architectural Group based in Philadelphia, said the complex was designed so that residents will feel that they are still getting a city apartment environment.

“We have added all of the amenities to this property that people who live in a city can easily walk to,” said Zalecky. “There will be a fitness center, business center and pool. Our hope is that the only commute residents will need to make on the train is for work.”

Zalecky said residents will not be able to distinguish between the affordable and market-rate apartment units and that all of the units will include premium appliances and fixtures, with third-floor apartments including higher ceilings and fireplaces as additional luxuries.

In addition, he said, paths throughout the complex have been designed so that residents will circulate toward a common path leading them to a central crosswalk for access to the transit stop, which is a few blocks away. Zalecky said that designers worked with the town of Abington to ensure safety for both motorists and the increased pedestrian traffic that will result from the complex.

To mitigate noise from nearby traffic as well as the rail station, a sound consultant was hired by Beacon Properties. As a result, special sound control precautions and construction techniques will be used at Abington Commons, said Dick Anderson, president of Plumb House, the contractor for the development. Some of the precautions include double walls and sound-resistant windows.

Anderson added that this transit-oriented, denser development designed to curb sprawl has become more important as more people are being forced to move out of the city because of rising real estate costs.

“Until now, much of the development effort has been put into suburban growth, focused on single-family homes,” said Anderson. “Now, future developments need to be done on a more European model, with clustered housing that has access to transportation.”

According to Zalecky, construction is scheduled to begin by the end of the summer and some units will ready for rental by spring 2003.

“We’re a big advocate of transit-oriented housing,” said Smith. “This development will provide residents who have sold their homes or are thinking about buying a home a nice, relaxing ride to work and a great place to live.”

Public Transportation Drives Abington Apartment Project

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 4 min