Homeless care project gets green light

PARKSIDE—A proposed care and housing facility for the homeless on Walnut Avenue has no more hurdles to stop its construction after an ongoing lawsuit was denied appeal by the state Supreme Judicial Court last week.

“We’re thrilled that we now have a green light,” Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program (BHCHP) Executive Director Robert Taube, whose organization is one of the developers, said in a press release. “This project will not only meet a tremendous need in Boston for permanent supportive housing among homeless men and women, but it will also let us move forward with an exciting new approach of bringing homes and health care under one roof.”

The developers, BHCHP and Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC), plan to make the former Barbara McInnis House at 461 Walnut Ave. into a respite care facility with 20 beds on the ground floor and 30 studio apartments for medically frail and elderly formerly homeless people on the upper two floors. Pine Street Inn would manage the studio apartments, while BHCHP would manage the respite care facility.

JPNDC will now move forward to secure all needed financing in hopes of starting construction as early as fall 2013.

A group of 11 residents filed a lawsuit against the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and the developers in hopes of halting the project soon after a November 2010 BRA decision allowing the redevelopment. The suit claimed that the BRA and the developers wrongly claimed that the property was “blighted, decadent or decayed” to ease zoning approval of this project.

“We’re grateful for the strong support that this project has received from hundreds of community members over two difficult years,” JPNDC Executive Director Richard Thal said in a press release. “We’re now ready to get back to work, including the work of re-engaging neighbors as we continue the design process and develop the construction management plan.”

The plaintiffs are nearby residents Walter Pollard, Kingsford Swan, Jason Heinbeck, Catherine Fitzgibbon Pollard, David Nagle, Siana LaForest, Stephanie Heinbeck, Luis Prado, Alex Rhem, Kirsten Patzer and Judy Sullivan. They lost the original case and the first appeal.

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