By Seth Daniel
At least one member of the Impact Advisory Group (IAG) for One Charlestown is feeling a little betrayed by how the transfer of ownership is now being contemplated between the developer and the Boston Housing Authority (BHA), though the BHA said they have found success using the same model all over the city.
Sarah Coughlin, an IAG member on the project who works at the Charlestown Coalition, said she is concerned that the site transfer process is being done piecemeal rather than all at once, which is what was specified in Corcoran’s bid and something she championed to residents early in the process.
“What was in the competitive bid Corcoran put in to the BHA could not be further from what is actually happening,” said Coughlin. “It’s completely different now than what they said they were going to do. I want to know why that is and am concerned why that is. That’s what they told us on when they were competing for the bid and I assured residents and relieved their anxieties about it. Now, I feel like I was lying to residents. I told them something completely different.”
Corcoran’s bid specifies that they will take over complete site management from the BHA about 18 to 24 months before construction, which would make the development uniform and under one management company for the duration of the potential 10-year phased project. One piece of that is when it is transferred, it goes from federal jurisdiction to state jurisdiction. With the transfer being piecemeal, it would mean that one part of the development could fall under federal housing regulations for many years while the other part falls under state regulations for many years.
Coughlin said, for example, the new marijuana legalization laws which go in effect today are a perfect example.
“If I live on Decatur Street and get caught with marijuana, I could lose my housing because it’s under federal jurisdiction and federal regulations call for that,” she said. “However, my aunt could live in the same development on Bunker Hill Street, which would be under state jurisdiction, and marijuana would be legal there.”
Kate Bennett of the BHA said there are some differences between the bid and what the BHA accepted when choosing Corcoran. The transfer of site management is one of those differences.
“It is correct that Corcoran proposed a quicker transition in the bid proposal and we talked with them about that,” she said. “We talked with them about it to emphasize that and reiterate our position. They were fine with that and our resident leaders understood the transition and they prefer this transition. It hasn’t been any problem of competing federal and state jurisdictionas at any of our other sites…I don’t see that as an issue. It’s based on the same model we have used all over the city and it’s been successful.”
Bennett said the BHA has the right to not accept some conditions in a bid.
“The transition proposal was a conversation we had with Corcoran during the process of designation,” she said. “That’s pretty typical as well. The Housing Authority may have problems with certain conditions in a section and not accept every single part of a proposal. I would say that’s pretty common for us.”
Bennett said the transition process will occur as financing for the phases comes in.
She said the BHA found it premature to turn over management before a phase had been financed. So, once financing comes in for a phase, that is when BHA will turn over site management to Corcoran rather than in one big swath prior to construction.
She said another piece of that is there are 50 BHA workers in the development, and the BHA wants to transition them slowly to other places, rather than very soon and all at once.
“We want to transition them to other sites in BHA,” she said. “It’s much easier to do that over a longer time period.” Meanwhile, Coughlin said she feels like the communication of that change was something that should have been better communicated, given that she advocated for Corcoran in the early going specifically because of that provision in the bid.
“That’s a change I’m really kind of troubled by because I feel we blatantly lied to residents,” she said. “When I have had questions, I have gotten no answers about it.”