Cunha sees Charlestown Housing Development as an Opportunity for the Entire Neighborhood

By John Lynds

Charlestown Neighborhood Council Chair Tom Cunha said the redevelopment of the Bunker Hill Housing Development could be an opportunity for the entire neighborhood to leave a legacy for future generations.

Cunha, who grew up in the state’s oldest public housing development as a kid, said he is happy that the developer plans to include the entire community in the process as the project moves forward.

“This is by far the biggest change to come to Charlestown in decades,” said Cunha. “But we have an opportunity here to create a legacy and change the landscape of the community.”

Cunha said when he grew up in the development there was no stigma associated with living in the ‘projects’.

“It was just an address and we were all close neighbors and looked out for one another,” said Cunha. “I think with this development we can once and for all erase that stigma and create a community down there that is thriving.”

Developers of the project have had preliminary meetings with the CNC and heard some input from Cunha and his board.

“What we (CNC) would like to see down there is some home ownership opportunity,” said Cunha. “I think that will create a sense of community and people will become more invested in their surroundings.”

Another thing the CNC is pushing for is to create some veterans housing at the site.

“Historically these housing developments were created for veterans and their families while they were either overseas or coming home,” said Cunha. “It would be nice to set aside 100 or so units for this purpose.”

As the community process moves forward Cunha would like to see the developers address the most obvious concerns before coming before the CNC.

“With any large development you can almost predict some of the questions that will be asked,” said Cunha. “You know there are going to be concerns about parking, construction time lines, disruptions to traffic, etc. We don’t want to hold 15 or 20 meetings to flush these issues out so it would be good if they come armed with answers.”

Cunha said so far he’s been very pleased with the process.

“I think they are talking to the right people and I have to give them credit for the amount of time they are spending doing outreach and seeking information from not only tenants at the development but others in the neighborhood.”

Over the past few months, the Boston Housing Authority and the developers of the Bunker Hill have held a series of meetings with residents living at the development to begin building a consensus on design and answer questions and concerns.

During these meetings, residents were tasked with brainstorming what they would like to see as far as design was concerned.

The plan is to raze the aging housing development and residents want to see it transform from an early 19th Century design to a 21st Century housing development.

After these meetings, the BHA held a ‘Charrette Week’ for the project in January that culminated in a design workshop session where residents of the development got to see the input they have provided emerge in the design and development plan.

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