BPDA receives new documents on Bunker Hill Redevelopment

The new development partnership of Leggat McCall and Corcoran filed its documents with the City – a Draft Project Impact Report (DPIR) – to begin the official reviews of the 10-year, massive, mixed-use, mixed-income public housing redevelopment project at Bunker Hill – a review that could move into the fast lane.

The DPIR is a document the public has been waiting for over the past year, with the first informal meetings on the new proposal coming last spring, with others last fall. All of those meetings were informal, but now the real review begins with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) process.

“We have filed our Draft Project Impact Report (DPIR) with the BPDA, which outlines our revised plans for the Bunker Hill Housing Redevelopment,” read statement from the development team. “This filing kicks off the next phase of our community outreach as part of the Article 80 process. We are currently meeting with the residents of the Bunker Hill development and will begin public meetings within the next month to answer questions and discuss more specific topics such as open space, construction impacts, and transportation.”

Much of the project is as advertised, with 2,699 units (1,010 being replaced on-site public housing that already exists) and 70,000 square-feet of commercial space, along with a 14,000 square-feet community center, up to 1,300 spaces of off-street parking and ample open space. However, the time line might be sped up significantly.

The first phase of the project may come much sooner than anticipated, with the development team requesting a waiver for Phase 1 – which includes two buildings, one of which is only public housing units – that potentially could forego a lot of the initial reviews by the City and the community.

“In conjunction with this (filing), and in accordance with (state law), the Proponent is requesting a Phase I Waiver be issued in order to allow for the immediate construction of Buildings F and M and associated infrastructure improvements,” read the filing.

While the project has experienced years of delays due to a re-start of the entire process and a change in the development team two years ago, there has been a sense of urgency in the informal meetings. At the same time, there was no discussion of a waiver of review for Phase 1.

That is controversial because the first two buildings were a sticking point with the community and some elected officials last fall. Many neighbors and residents of the existing development were uneasy about having one entire building made up of only low-income housing – which many felt would nix the entire concept of a mixed-income development and possibly create a stigma.

The development team, in early meetings, said the financing just wouldn’t allow them to mix the incomes so much in the early stages, but that future phases would include a much more integrated mix of low-income and market-rate units. When informal meetings concluded last fall, there was hope that the situation would be altered.

It is, in fact, the same.

The Phase 1 program includes two buildings (Buildings F and M on the new Master Plan), and they make up 376,400 sq. ft. of development, or about 10 percent of the entire project. The first building (Building F) includes a 10-story mixed-income building with 286 units and 86 parking spaces fronting Decatur Street and Samuel Morse Way. However, the second building (Building M) is tabbed as a four to six-story building with 102 units of low-income housing only and fronting Corey, Medford and Tufts streets.

Those two buildings would contain mostly one and two-bedroom units, with 200 of the 358 total units in Phase 1 being market-rate.

Beyond that sticking point, there is a highlight in the community center concept that has been better detailed. That would include supporting a robust community services and programming piece to enhance and sustain the neighborhood. The developer has pledged to devote $1.1 million of the operating budget for the project to funding the center and the programming. There have been hints, though nothing official, that the Charlestown YMCA could be the provider that would operate the new community center concept.

Some of the other development highlights in the filing are:

  • Construct sustainable, Passive House certified buildings employing ultra-low energy design, thereby contributing to the City of Boston’s goal of making Boston carbon neutral by 2050;
  • Introduce 6.74 acres of landscaped open space (a half-acre larger than the riverfront park at Assembly Row);
  • Enable an activated public realm to knit this new neighborhood into the rich public realm context of Charlestown;
  • Integrate building forms and urban design into an evolved urban fabric that builds on the legacy of historic Charlestown;
  • Reduce the Site’s physical, social, and economic isolation from the larger Charlestown neighborhood;
  • Enable sustainable transportation and access through adequate, adaptable parking, pedestrian permeability, bicycle accommodations and enhanced transit access;

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