Homeless care project breaks ground

PARKSIDE—After four years of planning, a two-year lawsuit and a lively community process, a new Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program (BHCHP) respite care facility at 461 Walnut Ave. broke ground earlier this month.

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) development, now called Walnut Avenue Apartments, will turn the former Barbara McInnis House, across from White Stadium in Franklin Park, into a medical care facility with 20 beds on the ground floor and 30 studio apartments for medically frail and elderly homeless people on the upper two floors. Pine Street Inn will operate the housing component.

“We are just delighted that everything has come together and we are finally able to move forward,” JPNDC Executive Director Richard Thal told the Gazette this week. “It only happened because we got so much support from the community.”

An official groundbreaking ceremony will take place on November 1.

Construction is expected to be completed in late 2015, with full occupancy in early 2016.

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 classified the property as “blighted, decadent or decayed” to ease zoning approval of this project.

That lawsuit was rejected by a lower court judge and finally ended in December 2012, after the state Supreme Judicial Court denied further appeal.

BHCHP housed its 90-bed respite care McInnis House at the Walnut Avenue site until it moved to larger quarters in the South End in 2008.

Before BHCHP opened McInnis house in 1993, 461 Walnut Ave. was the Stadium Manor Nursing Home, which operated on the site as far back as 1980.

Medical respite care is the term used for short-term medical and recuperative services for homeless people too sick to stay in shelters, but not sick enough for a hospital stay.

A rendering of the project at 461 Walnut Ave. (Image Courtesy Elton+Hampton Architects)

A rendering of the project at 461 Walnut Ave. (Image Courtesy Elton+Hampton Architects)

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