Developer Tentatively Designated for Austin Street Parking Lots

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

During a meeting last week, Trinity Financial was tentatively designated by the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s (BPDA) Board of Directors to redevelop the Austin Street parking lots.

Back in May, a request for proposals (RFP) was released for the redevelopment of the lots that have been used by students of Bunker Hill Community College.

“This property was identified as an underutilized site that could address some of Boston’s most urgent needs in the public land for public good citywide land audit,” said Natalie Deduck of the BPDA.

In July, the BPDA received two proposals to redevelop the property, one from Onyx/DREAM Austin LLC and the other from Trinity Financial, which an internal evaluation committee and project review committee evaluated.

The internal evaluation committee comprised city staff from different departments in the BPDA, the Mayor’s Office of Housing, and the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture. In comparison, the project review committee was made up of Charlestown residents.

“Both the internal evaluation committee and the project review committee deemed the Trinity proposal as highly advantageous for its creation of affordable housing, strategic phasing, compelling building designs and open space, accomplished experience, and strong diversity, equity, and inclusion plan,” said Deduck.

As part of the presentation to the BPDA Board, Abby Goldenfarb, Trinity’s Vice President of Development, went through the plan for the parking lots.

“We are proposing a two-phase development where each phase is oriented around a central green,” said Goldenfarb.

She explained that the first phase includes a mix of affordable and market-rental housing within two buildings around an arts common. Retail, a community art gallery, and artist live-work units are also planned with the first phase.

As for the second phase, there are plans for a mix of market and affordable homeownership units between two buildings centered around youth sports fields. This phase also proposes a community recreation center and the expansion of the Charlestown Nursery School.

In terms of massing and the total number of units, Goldenfarb indicated that the height of the buildings scale from 12 stories closer to the highway and six stories as you move toward Rutherford Avenue.

The proposal entails a total of 686 units with 146 market rentals, 246 affordable rentals, 128 market homeownership, and 166 affordable homeownership units.

Additionally, the redevelopment is slated to offer tens of thousands of square feet of space for amenities such as retail, indoor recreation, sports fields, art space, and more.

“We are an established company with a long track record of building high quality, affordable and market-rate housing,” said Goldenfarb.

“We like to take on complex developments, we welcome the public process, and we look forward to working with the city on this endeavor,” she added.

Following the presentation, members of the BPDA Board asked questions and made comments before taking a vote.

Board Member Brian Miller asked about the financing and how it would come together for the project, noting other projects being placed on hold due to the financial markets.

Kenan Bigby, Trinity’s Managing Director of Development, explained that he does not have a crystal ball in terms of what the budget will look like once they are through the preliminary approval process.

However, he did say, “We feel confident that the dollars we need will be there,” citing the work already done speaking with their contractor and financial partners. Though, he did note the necessity for “quite a bit” of affordable housing subsidy.

Priscilla Rojas, the Board’s Chair, also spoke and commended the developer for the early childhood education and Minority/Women-Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs) components of the project.

In the end, the Board unanimously approved the tentative designation of Trinity Financial. A BPDA release indicates that the proposal will be subject to the Article 80 process.

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