Housing Developer and Community Working to Make Project Successful

March 25, 2016
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Over 200 residents attended last month’s meeting, the first that invited the entire community to begin weighing in on the project.

Over 200 residents attended last month’s meeting, the first that invited the entire community to begin weighing in on the project.

By John Lynds

For decades the Bunker Hill Housing Development has been an isolated section of the community with Bunker Hill Street being the dividing line between two Charlestowns.

The city’s designated developer for the state’s oldest and largest public housing development, Corcoran-SunCal, hopes to change that with their plan to redevelop the entire area.

“One Charlestown” was the theme for the at the first meeting involving the entire community held last Wednesday at the Harvard Kent School that included over 200 participants. Corcoran-SunCal Project Manager Sarah Barnet said ‘One Charlestown’ describes the mixed-income community where new public housing units will be created alongside market and moderate-rate housing. The project will also bring the housing development out of isolation by reconnecting historic streets, adding shops and commerce as well as community parks and other amenities.

Corcoran-SunCal plans to raze the housing development and replace the 1,100 affordable units. While preserving the affordable units, Corcoran-SunCal will also create approximately 1,700 additional market and moderate-rate units. All current residents will have the right to return to the new development.

“For too long Bunker Hill Street has been a dividing line between the housing development and the rest of the community and we are here to change that,” said Barnet. “A neighborhood is not just stick and brick and after a robust dialogue with residents we want to create not only affordable units but market rate units complete with amenities like shops, restaurants, open space to create a more vibrant community.”

Barnet said by creating both affordable and market rate housing at the site the area will become a more thriving section of the neighborhood, a destination area for residents from all over a Charlestown and a high quality place for people to live.

At the open house, community members were shown initial drawings, renderings, and sketches of key features of the redevelopment, including new buildings, apartments, and open spaces. Visitors were also able to see how the designers planned to integrate the project into the broader Charlestown community. Throughout the process, architects, community relations liaisons, and other members of the development team were on hand to answer questions and address concerns from visitors.

“I like the organization of the program- they were really able to answer all my questions,” said Charlestown resident Serafina Lemus, who lives at the Bunker Hill Housing Development. “I’m really optimistic about this project and how I think residents like me will be treated.”

Though the open house was primarily a chance to demonstrate what had been accomplished so far, the development team also views it as a key part of the community planning process. Continued community and resident input is encouraged as a way to continue to help shape final design plans.

“It was so gratifying to be able to show the community the results of the work the residents have done with the development team to re-envision the future of the Charlestown Public Housing Development,” said Joseph Corcoran, president of Corcoran Jennison Associates. “Their feedback informed so many of the decisions we made in the design process, and it’s really reflected in these initial plans. The reaction to our open house has been positive and informative, and the Boston Housing Authority has been supportive, that I’m very optimistic we’ll continue to improve the design in the coming months.”

Over the past three months, Corcoran-SunCal and the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) have worked with residents of the Bunker Hill Public Housing Development to establish a Resident Working Group that has assisted in the initial design and planning of “One Charlestown.” The Resident Working Group met regularly in late 2015 and early this year, sharing their priorities, values, and hopes for the redevelopment project. The group’s involvement in a planning and design charrette helped the planning team determine how to move forward with the community to further the design of the project.

“Our goal is to ensure that our residents and surrounding community stakeholders are a part of this process, start to finish,” said Boston Housing Authority Administrator Bill McGonagle. “We are pleased with the process to –date and look forward to recreating the Charlestown community with our residents and partners.”

Betty Carrington, president of the Charlestown Tenant Task Force said, “we want this thing to happen and it’s about time” to applause.