By Seth Daniel
The largest redevelopment project in the history of the Town – a $1 billion, three-phase mixed income rebuilding of the Bunker Hill Development – has filed project documents with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA, formerly BRA) and will begin community meetings over the next two weeks.
“We are excited to begin the review process with the Boston Redevelopment Authority,” said Joseph Corcoran, president of Corcoran Jennison Associates. “For months, we have worked with residents and neighbors of the Bunker Hill Apartments to create a truly special vision for One Charlestown. Now the BRA will have a chance to consider our proposal and collect feedback from the wider Boston community. Our hope is they will recognize what a tremendous opportunity One Charlestown represents, not just for current residents but the entire neighborhood.”
Corcoran was chosen last year by the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) to redevelop the development, the largest public housing development in New England, into a mix of public housing, affordable housing and market rate units. All of the 1,100 public housing units will be replaced one-for-one as new units in the development and tenants have been promised that they will be brought back. The total market rate and public housing units equals 3,200 units.
The breakdown of the market rate units are 750 affordable rentals, 350 affordable senior citizen rentals, 1,500 market rate rentals and 600 market rate condos for purchase.
While there has been a robust process within Bunker Hill engaging residents and some abutters over the last year, many in the greater community have hordes of questions and haven’t had the proper venue to date to really drill down on a project that is expected to change the Town for decades.
A public meeting of the Impact Advisory Group (IAG) with the BPDA will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 11, at 6:30 p.m. in the Harvard Kent Cafeteria. A general public meeting with the BPDA will take place on Weds., Oct. 19, at 6:30 p.m. in the Harvard Kent Cafeteria.
Meanwhile, documents filed over the last two weeks have given detailed clues within more than 200 pages of explanations, renderings and tables.
The first piece of news is that the project is expected to roll out in in three phases over a period of 10 years, starting in 2018 with the demolition of the existing buildings.
The first phase to be built out will be buildings A, B, C, D and E along Bunker Hill Street from Polk to Tufts Street and bounded in the middle by Center Street. Those buildings along the street will be six stories tall and could have some variation in height, an idea called for by community members in early meetings. The lone exception is building C, which will be much taller. However, most of the taller buildings will roll out abutting the Tobin Bridge.
“The exception (to six stories in Phase 1) is Building C, which is anticipated to be a 10-story building, providing a visible focus at the center of the new neighborhood along Bunker Hill Street and a reference to the axis created by the Bunker Hill Monument,” read the filing. “In response to recent community comments on the consistent height of buildings along Bunker Hill Street, the design team is exploring additional options that vary the height of the buildings along Bunker Hill Street and redistributes the density to adjacent parcels within the Project area to maintain the overall program.
Taller buildings are concentrated near the Tobin Bridge where the context is less sensitive and the bridge itself establishes a tall precedent. Between Corey and Decatur Streets and adjacent to the Tobin Bridge, the height of the buildings increases, ranging from 21 stories at Building F to 20 stories for Building 0. Building M, located at the northern end of the public park bounded by Tufts and Corey Street will be a 2-story building, containing community meeting space and a wellness center.”
The Phase 2 program will contain buildings H, I, J, K, L, and M (which is the two-story community/fitness center). Those buildings will be similar in style to the first phase and will be located on Medford Street, bounded from Polk to Corey Streets.
The final phase will contain the larger buildings, with one being up to 21 stories tall, and those will all abut the Mystic/Tobin Bridge. That area contains three buildings and is bounded by Vine, Corey and Decatur Streets.
Other pieces that are particularly important to the design include re-establishing a grid system of streets in the development and “knitting together Charlestown once again.” It calls for the creation of 13 new residential blocks with Bunker Hill Street acting as a seam that will be activated significantly with street-level retail. There will be parking mostly underneath the development in carefully constructed courtyard that will provide surface open space of more than four acres in total. The roofs of the underground parking will act as courtyards throughout the development, and those open space will not be open to the general public.
However, two new open spaces will become new public parks. One is on Bunker Hill Street, the smaller one, and is 29,500 sq. ft. The second is on Medford Street and is 1.2 acres.
“The smaller of the two open spaces located along Monument Street, is directly below the National Park Service’s Bunker Hill Monument and is envisioned as a connection point from the Bunker Hill Monument to the One Charlestown development,” read the filing. “This publicly accessible open space will incorporate a reference to the historic Battle of Bunker Hill and be designed for passive recreation, with the potential of café seating. The open space will be designed with high quality materials and may include a water feature and/ or public art. To further the connection to the monument, the section of Monument Street adjacent to the open space may have special paving so that on special occasions, the street can be closed and the activity of the open space can expand across the street.”
Financing has already been breached as well, with a long-standing partnership with Corcoran of Boston and SunCal of New York. Already, a $7 million pre-construction loan has been arranged, and financing partners are being sought through UBS.
“The Corcoran SunCal team is a well-capitalized development group and they have successfully arranged for more than $7 million in pre-development capital for the programming, design and entitlement efforts of the One Charlestown project,” read the filing. “The majority of the project will be traditionally financed with a combination of private equity and debt. The Corcoran SunCal team is working with the Real Estate Private Funds Group at UBS to help select and structure the optimal investment partner for the significant financing of the construction project. Additionally, the Corcoran SunCal team anticipates securing a construction loan, for potentially up to 65 percent of total costs, for each phase of the project. Lastly, they have engaged best-in-class consultants to help identify and structure municipal financing opportunities, including but not limited to district improvements funds (DIF), and 4 percent Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs).”
An important feature of the mixed-income model at One Charlestown is the resident partnership that Corcoran-SunCal will establish with the current residents, represented by the Charlestown Tenant Task Force. This partnership is modeled after the successful collaboration between residents, developer and management at Harbor Point on the Bay in Dorchester, another former federal housing project that was redeveloped into a mixed-income community by Corcoran Jennison. The partnership will bring One Charlestown residents to the table on a host of issues related to the governance and management of the community. It will also provide a valuable feedback mechanism for residents. “The One Charlestown model – a robust partnership with residents combined with the introduction of mixed income units – is the single best way for public housing to be preserved across the entire City of Boston,” said Boston Housing Authority Administrator Bill McGonagle.
The meetings over the next two weeks are expected to bring out large crowds of neighbors, and particularly those in the immediate area who have had questions for some time. The BPDA has commenced the large project review of One Charlestown, and several zoning relief matters have to be considered, including increasing the floor area ratio (FAR) from 1.0 to 4.0. and increasing the height limit from three stories to 21 stories. The project is also subject to a state environmental review process, known as MEPA.