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South Boston housing project to undergo massive redevelopment

by Liz Hughes

WinnCompanies has filed a letter of intent with the Boston Planning & Development Agency for a massive transformation of the Mary Ellen McCormack public housing project in South Boston, as the units in the 80-year-old development have reached their shelf life. 

The two-phase redevelopment project is scheduled to take 15 years to complete and includes the replacement of existing structures with 18 new buildings, most of which will be mixed-income and offer ground-floor services and retail facilities. The plan includes the creation of more than 2.3 acres of open space, as well as 3.7 acres of area improvements, including new streetscapes, sidewalks and plazas. 

The housing development is “badly in need of redevelopment and can’t continue to function in its current state,” according to the letter of intent.

The project will be a massive undertaking as it will aim to take the outdated property and transform it to meet today’s standards. It has been planned and timed to phase the deconstruction of existing Boston Housing Authority units in a way that will limit off-site relocation of existing residents. Additionally, every affordable unit demolished will be replaced one-for-one. 

The current development includes 1,016 deeply subsidized public housing apartments in 18 mid-rise buildings and 16 townhome buildings. All of the development’s units have sub-standard bedroom sizes and lack modern features including laundry, dishwashers, air conditioning, secured entry intercoms, modern security, elevators and accessible units. 

Additionally, there are limited amenities for residents, and the community lacks neighborhood retail options, community space, security resources and programmed open space. The site has outdated utility, roadway, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, is not climate-hardened and is at risk of mid-term sea-level rise. 

Once complete, the redeveloped 1.51 million gross-square-foot project will be spread throughout eight new mixed use, residential buildings, as well as a renovated boiler plant. According to the filing, the completed project will consist of approximately 1,370 mixed-income residential units, including 572 affordable units replacing more than half of the current ones, up to 200 middle­-income units and approximately 600 market-rate units. 

At least 20% of the units in each residential building will be set aside as permanent, deeply subsidized affordable units. They will be integrated throughout the project with identical finish levels within each mixed-income building, with an end result of an economically, socially and racially diverse, and inclusive neighborhood, according to the filing.

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