Residents file lawsuit to stop Charlestown affordable housing project

by Liz Hughes

A group of Charlestown residents has filed a lawsuit in hopes of stopping the conversion of Charlestown’s Constitution Inn into affordable housing.

The building is located at 150 Third Ave. in the Charlestown Navy Yard. 

The Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) approved the redevelopment project at its December meeting, paving the way for the conversion and renovation of the building’s 147 hotel rooms into 100 income-restricted residential units. 

The lawsuit filed by 11 residents on Feb. 6 in Suffolk Superior Court against the Boston Planning & Development Agency contends that the board’s decision to convert the property was based on “errors of law, is unsupported by substantial evidence, and is arbitrary and capricious.” 

The filing went on to say the BPDA’s decision was not supported by facts and accuses the board of failing and refusing to “take into account — or even acknowledge — the existence of over 100 letters and emails submitted to the BPDA in opposition to the proposed project and further failed and refused to take into account certain testimony and ‘chat comments’ indicating opposition to the proposed project during a virtual public meeting that the BPDA held via Zoom in October 2023.” 

The suit also accuses the BPDA of not following review requirements outlined by the city. 

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and BPDA Director James Jemison were also named in the lawsuit. 

The residents claim the project will “generate significant adverse impacts” to the Charlestown neighborhood. The filing also cites concerns with safety, security, increased traffic, lack of parking, overburdening the local medical system and the lack of both a full-service police station in Charlestown and lack of services for the health needs of future residents. It goes on to express concern about ongoing issues accessing medical services and the lack of amenities including a supermarket and pharmacy “none of which were addressed in the BPDA Decision,” it said. 

In September, the Archdiocese of Boston and St. Francis House filed a letter of intent with the BPDA expressing their desire to convert the property at 150 Third Ave. in the Charlestown Navy Yard. The site is owned by the BPDA and leased by the YMCA of Greater Boston, which uses the building as a fitness center. 

The BPDA’s December approval set forth the conversion of the property into 100 income-restricted residential units that will be a mix of studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units, with 48 dedicated to the city’s Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) model which will include “on-site services for vulnerable populations that support stable tenancies.”  

As part of the plan, the YMCA will lease back the remaining space in the building, which will be renovated so the organization can continue to operate a fitness and wellness center at the property. 

The project will also provide residents with a dedicated shuttle to public transportation and ground-floor space for community-based organizations.

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  • Lesley Smith says:

    Very misleading headline. It is not affordable housing it is transient housing for current homeless people with no onsite services. No drug testing, no sex offender checks, no job requirements. We were told only on site services was a security guard. Very few 2 bedrooms which we asked for, for families. Vast majority of studios. This article is horribly one sided.

  • Moree Meehan says:

    The Charlestown community as whole (myself included) is generally supportive of affordable housing, and if the project were indeed “affordable housing” per se, I do not believe there would be a pending lawsuit. Unfortunately the project is only part affordable housing, the other part being “permanent supportive housing” for previously homeless individuals without requirement for sobriety (alcohol or drug) or engagement in offered support services. There are many very legitimate community concerns regarding this type of housing. Additionally, the investors in this project have been less than honest and forthcoming with community members, have ignored many requests for additional community involvement, and have circumvented (with the assistance of the BPDA) certain regulations set in place for community input. I wish the reporter had looked more deeply into this issue before reporting with this skewed perspective.

  • Boston Resident says:

    The BPDA is not and should never be a cudgel for people to shun organizations they don’t agree with. Its role is to manage development in the city. To my two fellow commenters: the details of how a supportive housing program is run are frankly none of your business. You filed a frivolous lawsuit against public officials for doing their job. People like you are the reason Boston has a housing crisis.

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