In Bunker Hill, Boston Tries to Reimagine Public Housing

This article first appeared in the Boston Globe on September 19, 2015. 

 TIM LOGAN/GLOBE STAFF  The Bunker Hill Housing Development sits in the shadows of the Bunker Hill Monument and downtown Boston.

TIM LOGAN/GLOBE STAFF

The Bunker Hill Housing Development sits in the shadows of the Bunker Hill Monument and downtown Boston.

By Adrian Walker GLOBE STAFF  SEPTEMBER 19, 2015

On the back side of Charlestown sit eight blocks of low-slung buildings from a different time.

Built in 1941, the Bunker Hill Housing Development has the signature look of old-school public housing, precise rows of drab brick buildings around stretches of open asphalt and grass courtyards that sprout rows of standing clotheslines.

The trim and neat setting, where children play football and ride scooters and elderly women lug home groceries, belies the Bunker Hill complex’s role as a testing ground for a radical re-imagining of Boston’s approach to housing its poorest residents.

After decades of segregating low-income tenants in aging projects, Bunker Hill is the start of a new effort that will move them into trendy new apartments, side-by-side with wealthier neighbors willing to pay 10 times the rent for the unit next door.

With little money and a daunting list of repairs and renovations, the Boston Housing Authority wants to leverage the city’s hot real estate market by partnering with a private developer to build new homes for Bunker Hill’s 2,600 residents. In exchange for razing and replacing the complex’s 1,100 units, the developer will be allowed to build as many as 1,600 more apartments, at rents more often found in higher-end apartment buildings.

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