This article was first published in the Boston Globe on October 1, 2015.
BY TIM LOGAN GLOBE STAFF OCTOBER 01, 2015
The Boston Housing Authority has selected Corcoran Jennison and the national developer SunCal to undertake a nearly $1 billion remake of the city’s largest public housing development, according to a person involved in the project.
The authority will announce the selection Thursday, said this person, who was not authorized to speak publicly because the award had not been made public.
The Corcoran-SunCal team beat out three other big-name real estate companies for the rights to replace the 24-acre Bunker Hill development in Charlestown with a mixed-income community in which low-income tenants in subsidized units will live next to wealthier residents in market-rate housing.
Officials at Boston-based Corcoran Jennison could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.
The plan, BHA officials have said, is to use Boston’s strong real estate market to replace its aging buildings and finance new housing for some of the poorest residents, offering up the authority’s large tracts of land for market-rate development — on the condition that the new projects make room for current tenants, too.
Corcoran-SunCal’s proposal, filed in August, is to replace the current 1,100 very-low-income apartments in 41 buildings with 960 units at comparably low rents. Other Bunker Hill residents who want to move elsewhere would get vouchers to do so.
The companies would add roughly 1,400 units at higher market-level rents, which in Charlestown often run into the mid-$2,000s for a two-bedroom apartment. The proposal also includes a 300-unit building for seniors.
All the units would be equal in appearance and design, and the low-income apartments would be sprinkled evenly across the development. The look of the new buildings would better blend in with the Charlestown neighborhood.
Finer details, from design to public space, will be hashed out over coming months.
Financing, too, will need to be lined up. Corcoran has projected a budget of more than $900 million, likely to be raised through private investment and a mix of federal housing tax credits and bonds.
In their proposal, the developers said they hope to have permits and financing in hand in 18 months, and the BHA has said that it wants construction of the first phase to take two years after that.
The Boston-based developer has projects around the country, but is perhaps best known locally for rebuilding Harbor Point, along Dorchester Bay. That project, which replaced the run-down Columbia Point housing development in the 1980s, today is a mixed-income community with tennis courts and ocean views, popular with students at nearby UMass Boston, but still home to hundreds of low-income renters.
Corcoran’s record at Harbor Point, including its experience providing services for poorer residents there, helped its case with the Bunker Hill selection committee, said the person with knowledge of the award. Corcoran also won points for its plan to engage current Bunker Hill residents in the planning.
That process will begin in the next few weeks, with a series of community and resident meetings set to launch this fall.