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Mayor Walsh breaks ground on redevelopment of Orient heights in East Boston

December 7, 2016

Neighborhood Development

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Neighborhood Development

Boston Housing Authority, DHCD and Trinity Financial celebrate Phase One of multi-phase effort to redevelop Orient Heights

Mayor Walsh completing the groundbreaking at Orient Heights

EAST BOSTON - Today Mayor Martin J. Walsh, the Boston Housing Authority (BHA), the state's Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) along with the development team of Trinity Financial and East Boston Community Development Corporation (CDC), celebrated the groundbreaking of Phase One of the redevelopment at Orient Heights, a 331-unit state public housing development in East Boston. Built in 1951, Orient Heights has long been the most physically distressed property in the Boston Housing Authority's state funded portfolio.

"I am grateful to join with our state and community partners as we celebrate the beginning of a new era for the Orient Heights housing development," said Mayor Walsh. "This public housing facility has been the home of many families for decades, and I am proud that with the support of our state and federal partners we are revitalizing current facilities, while creating new living spaces for future residents."

The Orient Heights public housing development is owned and managed by the BHA, which undertook a planning process in 2008, funded by DHCD, to consider redevelopment options for the site. The BHA commissioned a master plan with an overall design concept and established the goals for the site's redevelopment-to transform the site into an attractive, energy-efficient and healthy housing community modeled on the successful transformations of the BHA's previous public housing redevelopments at sites such as West Broadway, Maverick, and Old Colony.

"Every resident in Massachusetts deserves the opportunity to live in housing that is safe, affordable and modern, and the first phase of the redevelopment of Orient Heights is an important step forward for this community's residents," said Governor Charlie Baker. "I congratulate the City of Boston for embracing efforts to modernize its public housing stock, and look forward to seeing the benefits this transformation will bring to the entire neighborhood."

"Strong neighborhoods are the building blocks of strong cities and towns, and this redevelopment project will further knit together the Orient Heights development with the rest of East Boston," said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. "This public-private collaboration between DHCD, the Boston Housing Authority, the East Boston Community Development Corporation, and Trinity Financial will create a housing development that will bring much-needed new amenities to its residents, while preserving every unit of affordable housing on-site."

Orient Heights Phase One includes the demolition of 90 units of existing housing and a decommissioned boiler plant, and the construction of 120 new units of affordable rental housing. The new housing units will be spread throughout four clustered townhouse buildings containing 40 dwelling units and a mid-rise building contacting 80 dwelling units.   All 120 units will receive an operating subsidy-75 percent of the units will receive state public housing operating subsidy and 25 percent of the units will receive project-based subsidy through the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP).

"Across the Commonwealth, we are making significant investments and working creatively to update and preserve state-funded housing units," said Housing and Community Development Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay. "Our administration is proud to support projects like this that ensure affordability, and create communities that are inclusive, vibrant and strengthen their surrounding neighborhoods."

Current Phase One residents of the site worked with a relocation team to find alternative housing options that best fit their needs.  Options included moving to another BHA public housing development of their choice or moving to privately owned housing with a state subsidized MRVP voucher.  Following the completion of this project, residents have the option to return to the redeveloped site when construction is complete or remain in place after initial relocation.

"Phase one is the start of a long overdue modernization of the Orient Heights housing development," said State Senator Joseph Boncore. "As we break ground, this project will ensure needed affordable and safe housing in a growing East Boston community."

"I am excited about this collaborative effort that will bring much needed investment and improvement to Orient Heights, said State Representative Adrian Madaro. "This project will not only be transformative for residents of the development, but for the entire East Boston community. I thank Governor Baker and Mayor Walsh for making this a priority and I look forward to seeing it become a reality."

"I am very happy for the residents of Orient Heights. Our friends and neighbors who live in these affordable units deserve nice spaces to call home," said District 1 City Councilor Sal LaMattina.

The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) authorized a 121A agreement for the project which will result in a streamlined regulatory process, an expedited construction schedule, and continues the tax exempt status for the public housing component. 

"Over the past 15 years, MassHousing has worked in partnership with the BHA to revitalize close to 2,000 units of its most physically distressed rental units in the city and transformed housing communities like Maverick Landing, Franklin Hill, Washington Beech, Old Colony, Lower Mills, Heritage and now at Orient Heights, into modern, mixed-income communities for the residents of Boston,'' said MassHousing Executive Director Tim Sullivan. "We are very pleased to be working with the city of Boston, DHCD, Trinity Financial, and all the public and private partners who are committed to the redevelopment of Orient Heights.''

In January 2015, the BHA selected the development team of Trinity Financial and East Boston CDC to work with BHA and DHCD to finalize a redevelopment strategy for the site. This development team will secure financing to implement the redevelopment, and will own and manage the buildings post-redevelopment subject to applicable laws and regulations. The BHA will continue to own the land and will lease the land to Trinity affiliated entities.

"We're thrilled to begin Phase One of the Orient Heights development," said Trinity Financial Vice President of Development Eva Erlich. "The multi-phased project will help deliver the type of housing the East Boston community needs: housing that is affordable, energy efficient, accessible, and integrated with the rest of the East Boston community. Phase One will also result in updates and improved housing for the residents in the initial 90 units. We're looking forward to working with our partners to create a development that the entire community can benefit from."

"We are looking forward to working with our development partners Trinity Financial to revitalize the community as we successfully did together at the Maverick development in Eastie several years ago" stated Bill McGonagle, BHA Administrator.

The total development cost for Orient Heights Phase One is approximately $51.2 million. The financing plan includes $17.5 million in private equity raised through an allocation of federal four percent Low-Income Housing Tax Credits;  tax-exempt bonds for construction financing; $32.725 million in state public housing capital funds from BHA and DHCD; and affordable housing resources from the City of Boston.

Today's groundbreaking furthers Mayor Walsh's commitment to increasing affordable housing options for residents and families in Boston.  As part of the sale of the Winthrop Square Garage in downtown Boston, Mayor Walsh will advocate for the allocation of $10 million in funding to be used for additional improvements at Orient Heights.

Mayor Walsh's administration to date has built historic levels of affordable housing as part of the effort to create 53,000 new units of housing at a variety of income levels across the city by 2030, including setting a 15-year record for housing completions, surpassing the record of new affordable housing units permitted in a single year, and leveraging the private development market to ensure the continued development of affordable housing in Boston through changes to the Inclusionary Development Policy.

About the Boston Housing Authority

The Boston Housing Authority (BHA) is a public agency that provides subsidized housing to low and moderate income individuals and families. In addition to conventional public housing communities throughout Boston, BHA offers rental assistance programs. BHA receives federal and state funding in order to provide housing programs to individuals and families. BHA's mission is to provide stable, quality affordable housing for low and moderate income persons; to deliver these services with integrity and mutual accountability; and to create living environments which serve as catalysts for the transformation from dependency to economic self-sufficiency.

About Trinity Financial

Since 1987, Trinity Financial has pursued a distinctive vision in real estate development, dedicated to revitalizing neighborhoods, strengthening commerce and fostering opportunities through a collaborative urban spirit. Our work spans half a dozen residential and commercial specialties, from multi-unit housing to transit-oriented development. Across that spectrum, Trinity projects demonstrate a high caliber of vision and attention to detail, which sets them apart and has led to sustainable success.