Plans in works to upgrade Codman Square buildings

Construction will begin on the first phase of Talbot Commons, a transit-oriented, residential development on New England Avenue, later this year. Image courtesy BRAConstruction will begin on the first phase of Talbot Commons, a transit-oriented, residential development on New England Avenue, later this year. Image courtesy BRA

Codman Square’s Talbot Norfolk Triangle is one of nine eco districts across the country that have been chosen to accelerate their regeneration, growth, and sustainability with eco-friendly investments that emphasize updates to existing buildings.

The plans to update existing residential and retail building stock to a set of standards laid out by the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, rather than erecting new buildings makes Codman Square’s Eco District classification unique and ripe for replication in other parts in the neighborhood, city, and beyond, according to those involved with the project.

The Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation has brought on David Queeley, a Jamaica Plain resident with an urban planning background, to coordinate the two-year long program in concert with the city, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, community members, and the Portland, Oregon-based nonprofit Eco District, which runs the Target Cities program.

Though the process is still in its conceptual stage, Queeley said emphasis lies on four key areas:

The first, a transit-oriented development based around the new Talbot Avenue commuter rail station, will see a number of buildings coming online using eco innovation, including a two-phase Talbot Commons project with a mix of residential and commercial space and the purchase of five parcels along New England Avenue stretching from Southern Avenue to Mallard Avenue. In line with the community’s interest in affordable homeownership, Queeley said, crews will likely break ground on condominiums at the Southern Avenue parcel later this year. Traditional rental units are also in the works for buildings on Washington Street. There will be brainstorming over what can be done along the far end of New England Avenue, beyond Southern Avenue. Queeley said initial suggestions have mentioned businesses that are food-related and car related.

The second focus is on local energy generation, which would make the neighborhood more resilient in case of any sort of energy shortage, blackout, or power outage.

Efforts to retrofit the existing housing stock is the CDC’s third focus area and they are already in the works, Queeley said, with 26 units retrofitted so far and another 61 in the pipeline. The aim is to update 15 percent of the 525 housing units in the neighborhood in the program’s first year.

The last focus is the development of clean infrastructure, adding to the visual quality of life with updated sidewalks, tree-lined streets, updates to improve pedestrian safety, and more green space. Queeley said a crosswalk on Elmhurst Street near the park is in being worked on.

In the short term, the CDC wants to certify the neighborhood for a LEED neighborhood development gold certification, which integrates smart growth, urbanism, and green building into a neighborhood-wide classification.

“This gives people a sense that they live in neighborhood that is valued in way that’s different,” Queeley said. “It becomes a place where they want to stay and it certainly leads to more designations of this type to get support for things down the road.”