Urban Edge gives up management role

May 19, 2008
By

JOHN RUCH

JACKSON SQ.—Urban Edge has turned over its entire property management operation to an outside company, as the nonprofit community development corporation (CDC) reorganizes in the wake of a self-described “fiscal crisis.”

WinnResidential, a Boston-based national firm, on May 1, took over management of all Urban Edge properties. Those include hundreds of affordable housing units across Jamaica Plain; the Egleston Crossing mixed-use development; the new BNN-TV building in Egleston Square; and Urban Edge’s own headquarters in the Webb Building at 1542 Columbus Ave.

The Gazette revealed in January that Urban Edge was facing large financial losses, which internal documents essentially blamed on development projects that were good for the community but bad for the bottom line.

A draft financial recovery plan obtained by the Gazette contained ideas that have now been carried out, including restructuring the organization’s top leadership positions, dissolving a business loan program and giving up property management.

Leroy Stoddard, Urban Edge’s resource development manager, told the Gazette that the final recovery plan has been completed and approved by the organization’s board of directors.

“This is a phase of it…This is part of the plan,” Stoddard said, referring to the outsourcing of the property management.

Stoddard could not immediately say whether the recovery plan would be available for public review and did not provide a copy to the Gazette.

Urban Edge was one of the few CDCs to manage its own properties. Giving up the operation after about 25 years is a major change. Stoddard said the organization’s real estate portfolio had become so large that it is better handled by a company with deeper resources.

Urban Edge President Mossik Hacobian told the Gazette earlier this year that property management is “an increasingly complex field with increasingly complex regulations.”

Urban Edge’s property management style drew controversy a few years ago for evictions and complaints about building conditions in some of its JP affordable housing units.

“The decision to go with Winn was a decision around…quality of service,” Stoddard said, adding that the company was selected as the property management contractor after interviews of various firms by the Urban Edge board.

WinnResidential already manages some large nearby public housing developments, including Mission Main in Mission Hill and New Academy Estates on the JP/Roxbury border. It also manages the Stony Brook Gardens buildings on Lamartine Street.

“We’ve worked alongside them” on safety and residential leadership issues in Egleston Square, Stoddard said, calling WinnResidential “close neighbors” and “close colleagues.”

The companies will continue to work very closely. Urban Edge’s current property management staff will be offered jobs with WinnResidential and would continue to work out of Urban Edge’s headquarters, Stoddard said.

WinnResidential did not respond to a Gazette request for comment. It is a division of WinnCompanies, which also includes the WinnDevelopment and WinnCommercial development divisions.

WinnDevelopment’s projects include the pickle factory/Ditson condo redevelopment in Mission Hill and the partly stalled Columbus Center redevelopment in Back Bay.

The current deal does not mean WinnResidential will automatically manage any future buildings Urban Edge develops. Stoddard said those would be separate contracts with their own review processes.

Urban Edge has some projects already under way that reportedly will not be affected by the financial recovery plan. The largest is the forthcoming Jackson Square redevelopment, where Urban Edge is part of a team of developers.

The draft financial recovery plan obtained by the Gazette said that Urban Edge’s future development decisions will be made with “financial performance at the forefront.”