Status of One Charlestown Discussed

By Lauren Bennett

The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) and the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) held a public meeting on June 22 to discuss the status of the One Charlestown Article 80 Review Process, specifically addressing questions about the Request for Proposal (RFP) process that took place with the Boston Housing Authority prior to the development review.

Project Manager Raul Duverge of the BPDA said that a lot of feedback was received from the last public meeting, which will be taken into consideration for the revised project proposal. However, no revised proposal was revealed at this meeting.

The Patriot Bridge previously reported this month that the BPDA has agreed to take a break from the project during the summer, and to return after Labor Day to unveil and review the developer’s new proposal.

What was discussed most of all at the meeting on Thursday night was how the BHA arrived at the decision to designate Corcoran a few years ago when it decided to put out a public bid to redevelop the housing in a mixed-income project.

BHA Director Bill McGonagle reassured members of the community that their feedback would be seriously considered in the revised version of the proposal. Many are concerned about the large number of units in the original proposal.

“You will see a less dense proposal as a result of the feedback we got,” said McGonagle.

McGonagle discussed some of the history of public housing in Boston, and explained that the federal government has been drastically cutting operating subsidies for over a decade.

“We cannot sustain the affordable housing on the existing funding from the federal government,” he said.

He said that Boston has an advantage over many other areas because the city has some pretty valuable real estate. The private sector was contacted in the RFP process to examine the federal property and “tell us what you think you could do,” said McGonagle.

Though the project would be privately funded to a great degree, McGonagle said that the ongoing operation subsidy would continue to come from the federal government.

Several community members shared their thoughts about the process at the meeting.

Ed Katz said, “It’s an experiment. It’s almost like Charlestown is a guinea pig.”

McGonagle told the community: “This is a new idea. It’s a bit of a leap of faith to see if this will work.”

However, according to McGonagle, the BHA currently has 41,000 families on its waiting list, and most all community members agree that something needs to be done about the current status of the Bunker Hill Housing Development.

Some were interested in how much it would cost to renovate the development as is. McGonagle said it would be around $400,000 per unit and there are currently 1,110 units – making it very cost prohibitive, he said.

Others, like Rosemary Kverek, support the Alternative Community Plan drawn up by Sy Mintz of Charlestown.

“It would not bother us. What he’s doing is making something we’d be proud of,” she said.

The status of the project is as follows: a Scoping Determination was issued to the developer, Corcoran/Suncal, on June 1. This document outlines the proposed project and identifies areas that need further examination and/or alteration. The Scoping Determination also includes comments from all of the city agencies, the general public, and members of the Impact Advisory Group (IAG).

Duverge said that the next step is for Corcoran to file a Draft Project Impact Report (DPIR) with the BPDA, which they intend on doing near the end of the summer. This report must respond to the comments that were included in the Scoping Determination. After the DPIR is received, there will be a 75-day public comment period during which the BPDA will hold public meetings to gather comments on the newest version of the proposal.

No other BPDA meeting has been scheduled yet, but the Scoping Determination is available for viewing on the BPDA Project Determination webpage.

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