$1B Public Housing Redevelopment Initiative Advances

This article originally appeared on GlobeSt.com on October 6, 2015.

The plan calls for the creation of a 2,400 unit mixed-income community in Charlestown.

By John Jordan

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BOSTON—The largest public housing development in the city is in line for a major upgrade and expansion. The Boston Housing Authority has selected a team led by locally-based Corcoran Jennison to replace 1,100 existing public housing units in the Charlestown development and add another 1,300 units at the 24-acre site. The multi-phased initiative has been valued at approximately $1 billion at full build-out and is geared to creating a mixed-income community at the property.

The Corcoran Jennison team, which also includes Irvine, CA-based developer SunCal, bested three other developers for the project— Trinity Financial, Related Beal, and Lexington Park Partnership (Preservation of Affordable Housing/ Cabot, Cabot & Forbes and Bozzuto Development Co.).

Lydia Agro, chief of staff of the Boston Housing Authority, tells Globest.com that the agency is hopeful that work can begin in about two years on the massive redevelopment project of the Charlestown (public housing) development that is also known as the Bunker Hill housing development. She adds that now that the developer has been selected, a series of community meetings will be held this fall to inform residents about the design and other particulars on the redevelopment project. No specific dates for those meetings and design charrettes have been scheduled to date, Agro says.

The plan calls for the developer to demolish and then replace the existing 1,100 public housing units with the same number of what the housing authority calls “deeply subsidized affordable housing units.” In addition, the developer can build another up to 1,300 housing units at the site. The breakdown of market rate, affordable and workforce housing units has not been determined, Agro says, and the total number of additional units could change.

The new 1,100 units will be offered to existing residents and future residents from the BHA’s public housing waiting list. Existing Charlestown development residents will be offered relocation options that will include relocations to other BHA public housing sites or Housing Choice/Section 8 vouchers. Existing residents will have the right to return to the site after redevelopment, BHA officials state.

City officials announced the selection of the Corcoran Jennison-SunCal team late last week. Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, who has a goal of creating 53,000 new housing units by 2030, says of the Corcoran-Jennison-SunCal selection, “"In order to meet the housing needs of all of our residents, we must think creatively to preserve our existing affordable housing stock, while developing new housing. I thank the Corcoran team for understanding that mission and look forward to what the future holds for this development."

The BHA issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) in November 2014 asking the non-profit and for-profit development community for ideas about how to preserve public housing units. On June 17th of this year, which was appropriately “Bunker Hill Day” in Boston, the authority released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the redevelopment of the Charlestown site.

“Our low-income families, elderly and disabled residents need and deserve a bright future where their housing is secure,” says BHA administrator Bill McGonagle. “We’re very pleased with the outcome of this process and look forward to working with the Charlestown community to bring the project to completion.”

Officials with Corcoran Jennison could not be reached for comment at press time. SunCal spokesman Joe Aguirre released a statement to Globest.com from the more than 80-year-old development firm that termed the Bunker Hill redevelopment project "a tremendous opportunity to create a new residential urban space that will enhance the area and be an asset to the greater Boston community." SunCal also states that "collaborating with our development partner in this venture, we will work to develop a new, quality neighborhood that will provide a diverse range of affordable and market-rate housing for the residents of Boston."