September 8, 2011
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will pump $20.5 million in federal housing funds to redevelop Dorchester’s Quincy Street area in a bid to revitalize the sector, aid the 8,900 families living in the area, and spur an economic turnaround.
City officials plan to set up a steering committee to oversee the project, ensuring it hits benchmarks, sticks to timelines, and tracks “every penny that’s spent,” said Mayor Thomas Menino, who was on hand to announce the grant alongside Senator John Kerry.
About $12.3 million of the funds will go towards redeveloping housing at the 11 buildings that make up Woodledge/Morrant Bay Apartments, while $3.075 million will be set aside for community facilities, parks, gardens, and job creation, according to the mayor’s office. Another $3.075 million will be funneled towards job training, educational courses, and after-school programming.
“A housing expert near and dear to me once told me that ‘secure, safe and affordable housing is the cornerstone for any community, then families can focus on education, health and career,’ ” said state Rep. Carlos Henriquez. “This collaboration brings all of that together in a very dense two blocks and shows government and community at its best.”
Nine buildings, which have 102 units, will be rehabilitated and reduced to 80 units. Two other buildings will be demolished, and 49 new units of housing will be built on four adjacent parcels. After construction, 129 units will be available, all under Section 8 subsidies.
“This is your tax dollars at work,” added Congressman Michael Capuano, who represents a large section of Dorchester.
The elected officials, which included city councillors and state representatives, were joined by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan for the announcement. The funds are part of HUD’s “Choice Neighborhoods Initiative,” which will send $122 million in total to Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Seattle.
“This is a rare opportunity, folks,” Menino told the crowd gathered in an empty lot off of Magnolia Street. The boundaries of the Quincy Street corridor include East and West Cottage streets on the north side and Washington Street on the south, and Columbia Road and Blue Hill Avenue on the east and west, respectively.
“This is the next generation of neighborhood revitalization that not only transforms distressed housing, but heals entire communities,” Donovan said.
A number of local organizations worked to grab the grant, including the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development, the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation, the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI), and Project Rebuild and Improve Grove Hall Together (RIGHT).
Dorchester Bay is working with the local groups to build seven new buildings, a project totaling $47 million. The HUD funds cover roughly half of the project, said Jeanne DuBois, head of Dorchester Bay.
“Right now it looks like hell,” Dubois said, standing in the vacant lot after the press conference announcing the funds. Posters with new housing and clean streets were laid out behind her.
Dorchester Bay’s plan also includes spending $21 million for converting a two-acre vacant site that once housed a meat-packing plant into a light industrial small business center. There are also plans for the creation of a 25,000 square-foot culinary arts job training and placement center at 259 Quincy St. that will cost around $10 million.
The price tag for the entire revitalization project is close to $70 million, according to DuBois.
“We’re going to transform this whole neighborhood,” Menino said.