City moves on Hendry rehab

The wheels of Boston's Foreclosure Intervention Team (FIT) churn on this week, as housing officials approved a developer for four city-owned three-deckers on blighted Hendry Street.

On Tuesday, the Boston Redevelopment Authority board put their seal of approval on Bilt-Rite, a Roxbury-based developer that the FIT recommended over three other bidders. The selection opens the door for the city's first redevelopment of properties acquired directly from the banks that foreclosed on them, at least during the current crisis.

"It is an exciting milestone because the designee will be able to immediately begin the process of construction on the properties," said Department of Neighborhood Development spokeswoman Lucy Warsh on Monday. "We worked as fast as we could to find a contractor on these properties."

But local neighborhood leader Davida Andelman is not exactly happy with the choice, and livid about what she calls the limited engagement neighborhood groups like the Meetinghouse Hill Civic Association and the Greater Bowdoin Geneva

Neighborhood Association had in the process.

"Am I glad that this is happening? Yes. But I have to say the process has left a lot to be desired," Andelman said on Tuesday. "I feel like the community has been made invisible. This is no way to treat this community, Bowdoin Geneva and Meetinghouse Hill has a long history of being involved in housing issues… I have tried for 17 years to get a neighborhood organization going on Hendry Street, it takes more than [development], that's why this is an important process."

The request for proposals for the buildings at 15, 17 and 19-21 Hendry Street went out in May, some three months ago. Andelman said with that kind of delay, involving the community would not have slowed things down significantly. She also cited competing bidder Dorchester Bay EDC's long history working in the Bowdoin Geneva community and Bilt-Rite's lack of history in the immediate area.

Bilt-Rite's track record does include the construction of a 25-unit residential building in the South End and the renovation of the Dartmouth Hotel in Roxbury and the Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester.

"We feel we've had a constant dialogue with community leaders in the neighborhood," said Lucy Warsh, spokeswoman for DND. "We also plan to facilitate communication between the developer and the community."

Unsatisfied with the three-month delay of the request for proposal process in the face of the foreclosure crisis, the FIT is retooling the process for the next round of city acquisitions that will likely occur in two new hotspots at Dacia and Quincy streets in Dorchester and around Langdon and Clarence streets in Roxbury. The new scheme, if ultimately applied, would be to pre-qualify developers for the re-development projects and dole them out as they are purchased by the city, thus streamlining the process, according to DND director Evelyn Friedman.

Bilt-Rite's plan on Hendry involves rehabbing all four three-deckers and selling each building to an owner-occupant who would then rent out the other two units, an idea the neighborhood supports. But the rfp also allows Bilt-Rite to rent the units "should [they] not be able to sell the buildings" and wait until the homeownership market improves.

"That's what I think is needed," said Andelman of the home ownership goal. "In order to stabilize the street these four houses need to be done simultaneously, and ideally all the homeowners would come in at the same time. And the community needs to reach out to those home owners."