Amory Street Partners held its first meeting on July 6 to discuss a renovation and expansion at the 125 Amory St. site that would include adding a significant amount of mixed-income units.
The development at 125 Amory St. is a City-owned property that currently provides housing for seniors and people with disabilities.
The Amory Street Partners consist of Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC), Urban Edge, and The Community Builders (TCB). The developers aim to preserve the existing 125 Amory St. senior building with energy and environmental improvements and to ultimately build five new mixed-income residential buildings with approximately 300 to 350 family units. The site is approximately six acres.
Their plans are also to reconfigure parking by potentially adding some underground parking, as well as surface parking. Amory Street Partners has indicated a commitment to hiring local, women, and minority businesses and workers for the design and predevelopment, construction, and management.
The 125 Amory St. property is currently owned by Boston Housing Authority (BHA). BHA owns about 12,000 units across the city, all of which are underfunded, according to Kate Bennett, deputy administrator for planning and sustainability at BHA.
“[BHA] used to get $30 million a year [from the federal government], and now we’re getting $6 million a year, with which we can barely afford to take care of health and safety measures,” Bennett said. “No one thinks the funding for public housing is coming back.”
She said she wants the residents to have a strong voice in the project.
“We are seeking relationships to help fund these properties,” said Bennett. “We are very intrigued by this proposal because it is respectful of the existing residence, and brings new value to the site.”
Eliza Datta of TCB said that a key priority for the development is to preserve and improve the existing 200 to 215 units. She said the exact number of units is unknown since some have been taken offline and converted for other uses. Some attendees pushed back on her not knowing the exact number of units in use.
The developers also said that 35 percent of the new units would be affordable. Some residents at the meeting felt that 100 percent of the proposed development should be affordable.
The four areas of improvement, according to the development team, are modernization of the existing building, street connection, residential housing, and open space.
The developers shared their idea to create a green space similar to the Southwest Corridor, with a well-lit greenway, which would be safe for pedestrians and bicyclists.
There were some concerns about traffic on Amory Street, and whether or not the development would contribute to that. The response was that existing traffic on the street seems to be coming from pass-through commuters from remote locations, or not from local residents, and that there is a traffic and transportation engineer involved in the project.
Debby Nugar, a JP resident, said that she is opposed to building anything that’s not affordable on City land due to gentrification in the neighborhood.
Other residents said that there is already enough market rate housing in or being developed in Jamaica Plain, and therefore were interested in supplying more affordable units.
Kyle Smith from Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council asked what the costs of renovation to the existing building were. The figure is currently undetermined since the developers are still surveying the units and trying to get a handle on scope of the project before they can extrapolate the associated costs of renovation.
A resident from the existing building was at the meeting and seemed distraught, saying that she and other residents were concerned about being displaced and health concerns during the construction period. The developers assured her that their major priority is to retain all the existing residents and to have them part of the planning process. Amory Street Partners have been meeting with the residents on a monthly basis.
Richard Heath, JP resident, thought that the proposal is “the future of Boston housing.”
“I am very encouraged by the team and very excited about the project,” Heath said.
He said that he didn’t care if millionaires lived in some of the units as long as the amount of affordable housing increases.
“Bring on the Mercedes if it’s going to increase Section 8 housing,” he said.
George Lee, a local activist, asked if Amory Street Partners would be willing to allow a vote from the residents in the building about the final proposal, to which BHA responded that they didn’t feel the need to do this since it was meeting monthly with the residents.
The July 6 meeting was held at Nate Smith House drew about 30 residents. The next community meeting regarding the development will be in August, at which there will be updated changes to the proposal based on the initial community feedback. A subsequent meeting will be held in September, and the development team hopes to finalize its proposal and file a project notification form to the Boston Redevelopment Authority in the fall.