Mildred Hailey Apts. redevelopment hits major milestone with BPDA filing

In what many are describing as a major milestone in a “game-changing” project to redevelop about half of the Mildred Hailey Public Housing Apartments (formerly known as Bromley-Health), a trio of JP-based developers in partnership filed their long-awaited Project Notification Form (PNF) with the City late last week that triggers an official review process for the massive redevelopment.

Centre Street Partners – which is made up of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corp. (JPNDC), Urban Edge, and The Community Builders (TCB) – filed their PNF with the Boston Planning and Development Agency on Friday for the project that looks to replace seven public housing buildings on Centre and Heath Streets and 253 public housing units, with brand new buildings and brand new units, while adding a mix of new affordable and market rate units as well. Developers said it would create a vibrant, mixed income community with new construction, retail opportunities and a new Anna Mae Cole Community Center.

There would be 690 units built in seven new buildings, which is known as Phase One of the redevelopment – though there hasn’t been any further phases planned or identified as of yet for the rest of the expansive public housing stock on the site. Phase One would redevelop about 7 acres of the 25-acre Hailey site.

“The Project will advance the City of Boston’s housing production goals by proposing to create a variety of affordable and middle-income housing in a highly desirable and transit-oriented location, providing affordable housing opportunities in close proximity to job centers, healthcare providers, and other valuable community amenities,” read the filing to the BPDA. “As a mixed-use Project with residential units being affordable to a mix of incomes, the Project provides a public benefit considering the need for housing in Boston. The Project proposes approximately 690 residential units within seven new buildings that will include a range of approximately 53 to 225 residential units each. The Project will showcase new, high-quality design and neighborhood amenities, while adding much needed affordable housing to the area. In addition, the Proponent will deliver a community space of approximately 6,800 sf on the ground level of Building 1A that will become a prominent gathering space in the Mildred Hailey Apartments complex.”

The proposal is not new to the community, and the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) started the ball rolling in 2017 when they named the development team as the designated developer for the 7-acre parcel redevelopment in a competitive bidding process that also included development opportunities at other public housing sites around the City. It was a push by the BHA to get their older developments refurbished by leveraging the private market to build mixed income communities and replace their existing units at the same time. In JP, residents at the affected Hailey buildings have been in discussions with the developers for some time and there have been scores of informal meetings with them, and one with the general community. The filing of the PNF, though, triggers something much more official and begins the Article 80 review process – which is expected to play out in online meetings this fall.

BHA Director Kate Bennett said the filing was a milestone and the overall project will be a huge change for the area – looping in the existing development with much of the private and affordable-housing developments that have been built around it over the last several years through a BPDA planning initiative.

“I think it’s a huge game-changer for the site and for Jackson Square,” said Bennett this week. “It’s really exciting to be at this point. We’ve had a lot of process at the site itself already, and now we’ll have a broader neighborhood process as well. This has been in the works for a few years…This is a site that really, really needs investment. In particular, the Centre Street buildings need investment. They are difficult to manage and are not in good condition…I think it will change the dynamic with the site and the neighborhood. It’s been kind of an island in the neighborhood and I think this will change that.”

Councilor Matt O’Malley said he’s been involved in the tenant discussions and said it is an exciting moment to get going on the official reviews of the project after so much discussion informally.

“It’s obviously a very exciting milestone,” he said. “The envisioning part has been going on for a number of years and now…It’s been great to see the leadership of JPNDC, Community Builders and Urban Edge working with the residents and now on a thorough review process…All three organizations have a great track record of building. I’m excited and I’m very excited for the residents and the re-development that will provide the deeply affordable units and also add more affordable units to the site and some market rate…The project is going to take many years to build out – probably 10 years – but when it’s done, it will be tremendous for the residents of Mildred Hailey and JP at large.”

Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz said one part of the project that stands out to her is the replacement of public housing units with brand new units for existing residents, and also the addition of a variety of affordable housing opportunities.

“The Mildred Hailey redevelopment project has made an important commitment to residents by providing one-to-one replacements for all current households,” she said. “It will also benefit the neighborhood more broadly through the creation of much-needed new housing for a variety of income levels, including low-income, and a variety of family sizes–as well as the development of more community space and job creation for local residents and contractors of color. I’m excited to see these plans to expand safe, secure, and affordable housing move forward.”

State Rep. Nika Elugardo was contacted by the Gazette for comment, but did not respond.

The construction plan would work out, Bennett and the filing iterated, to build first on the site of the Anna Mae Cole Center – which also has a lot of vacant land and that would eliminate a lot of the relocation issues for existing residents. The first buildings to be demolished would likely be the 24-34 Heath St. building on the northeast corner of the Hailey site. 

The first two buildings constructed would be Buildings 1A and 1B, which would be adjacent to the basketball and tennis courts and the Southwest Corridor Park. In all seven buildings would be demolished, with the Centre Street buildings all coming down only after the first of the new buildings are constructed and residents of Centre Street can move into new units in the new buildings. Relocation issues in such public-private BHA developments are always a major issue, as there are many children currently living in the affected buildings, and moving families to other parts of the city temporarily can disrupt schooling and neighborhood life. That will not be the case in this project, Bennett said.

“The planning of this is such that the first building will be constructed where the Anna Mae Cole Center is located,” she said. “The new building will replace the Community Center as well. The building of that building first will make sure all relocation will be on the site – one way moves. Once that is built, residents will move into the new building and then the Centre Street buildings would come down. We’re really happy that none of the residents have to go off-site.”

Another key – as Chang-Diaz mentioned – is the addition of affordable units to complement the replaced public housing units. In addition to the 253 public housing units (which are project-based Section 8 vouchers), there will be new affordable housing created for a variety of income levels, including 50 percent, 60 percent, 80 percent and 100 percent of the Average Median Income (AMI). That encompasses the sphere of low-income affordable housing to workforce affordable housing. In addition, upper middle-income market rate units will also be built out in the unit mix.

Parking will like be an issue, however, as there are 309 parking spots to be available – with 76 of them being street parking spots. That, however, is an increase of 168 spots over the current totals on the site, and the development is also being touted as a Transit Oriented Development spot being only steps from the Jackson Square T Station.

A rundown of all of the buildings would be as follows:

•Building 1A – a six-story building located on the northern side of the Project Site adjacent to Southwest Corridor Park. The building is proposed to include approximately 110 residential units and approximately 6,800 sf of community space (for the Anna Mae Cole community center). Approximately 1,500 sf of space at the ground level at the intersection of Heath Street and the Lamartine Street extension (a new roadway) is planned to be devoted to a non-residential use, such as a community space, office space, or other use that will activate the corner streetscape. The building will include approximately 60 below-grade parking spaces accessed from Heath Street.

•Building 1B: A six-story building immediately south of Building 1A adjacent to Southwest Corridor Park. The building is proposed to include approximately 124 residential units and associated residential amenities including a first floor lobby, a lounge and fitness area. The building will include approximately 78 below-grade parking spaces in a garage that connects to the garage beneath Building 1A and can be accessed from Heath Street.

•Building 2: A six-story building immediately south of Building 1B, adjacent to Jackson Square Station and Southwest Corridor Park, and bordered by Centre Street to the south. The building is proposed to include approximately 65 residential units and associated amenities. Approximately 2,300 sf of the ground floor is planned to be devoted to a nonresidential use, such as retail space, office space, or other uses that will activate the streetscape on Centre Street.

•Building 3: A six-story building located across Lamartine Street extension from Building 1B and bordered by Bickford Street extension (a new roadway) to the south. The building is proposed to include approximately 60 residential units and associated residential amenities including a first-floor lobby.

•Building 4: A six-story building located south of Building 3 and bordered by Bickford Street extension to the north, Lamartine Street extension to the east, a new open space to the west, and Centre Street to the south. The building is proposed to include approximately 225 residential units and associated residential amenities including a first-floor lobby, lounge and fitness area, as well as approximately 4,500 sf of non-residential space that could be retail space or another use that will activate the streetscape along Centre Street. The building will include approximately 95 garage parking spaces accessed from Lamartine Street.

•Building 5A: A six-story building located in the southwest portion of the Project Site. The

building is proposed to include approximately 53 residential units and associated

residential amenities including a first-floor lobby.

•Building 5B: A six-story building located in the southwest portion of the Project Site,

immediately south of Building 5A and at the intersection of Centre Street and Bickford

Street. The building is proposed to include approximately 53 residential units and

associated residential amenities including a first-floor lobby.

In addition to the buildings, the project will include two new roadways to improve circulation in and around the development. An extension of Lamartine Street will run north and south through the development from the existing stoplight, and Bickford Street Extension will be created to run east and west through the development between existing Bickford Street and the new Lamartine Street.

The redevelopment of part of the Hailey is also in context with several buildings that have been built in recent years – and are proposed to be built in the coming years – just around the site.

There have been no meetings yet scheduled for the project with the BPDA, but overall public meetings and Impact Advisory Group (IAG) meetings are likely to commence in the coming months – and it is likely they will be online so access to technology will be critical for the community at-large, O’Malley and Bennett said.

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