Mattapan Station revamp gets $1.8m boost

A group photo at Mattapan Square MBTA parking lot on Tuesday included public officials like Gov. Baker and Mayor Walsh and longtime residents who have helped steer the vision behind the station project. Yukun Zhang photo

A $1.8 million state grant will help fund a much-anticipated plan to convert a parking lot at Mattapan Station into a mix of affordable housing and retail space. Officials, led by Gov. Charlie Baker and Mayor Martin Walsh, gathered in a tent on the site on Tuesday morning to announce the news.

The Mattapan Station development, proposed by non-profit developers Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) and Nuestra Comunidad, would transform an underutilized parking lot into 135 housing units, of which half will be affordable, along with commercial/retail space and community room on the ground floor. A second building with 9 homeownership units is also planned.

The developers hope to be awarded state rental housing tax credits, which are essential for them to finance the estimated $67 million project.

Aaron Gornstein, president and CEO of POAH, told the Reporter that the development team hopes to be able to begin construction on the project “by the end of the year.”

In his remarks, Walsh told the crowd of about 60 residents and officials that “the theme here is creating affordable housing. The theme here is connecting people in their neighborhood. The theme here is making sure we have better transit connection. The theme here is really about investing in people: that’s what this grant is all about.”

Added Baker: “This is just one more example of a really big day for us to work with our colleagues and local government and our folks in the community to put programming and solutions in place to build a stronger neighborhood.”

The Mattapan Station project is one of three totaling $6.5 million that state and city official sought to highlight. A $2.25 million grant will be used to help build the Indigo Block near the Uphams Corner MBTA station. That project includes 80 affordable housing units and 9 market-rate condos. And the reconstruction of Vallar Road in East Boston and the revitalization of 331 public housing units at Orient Heights received $2.5 million, according to the Baker administration.

Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, MBTA general manager Steve Poftak, state Sen. Nick Collins, state Reps Dan Cullinane and Russell Holmes, Donna Cramer, board president of Nuestra Comunidad, and Gornstein also spoke at the event, celebrating what the development project will bring to the neighborhood and the collaboration of different parties.

Holmes said there should not be a building boom without Mattapan being part of it, while Cullinane said investing in affordable housing “is truly essential to retaining a thriving and diverse working-class community.”

He traced the history of the Mattapan T parking lot from an earlier plan to sell the site to a charter school to the community process that shaped the design of the current project. He connected the project to the Neponset River greenway extension, the newly-opened Blue Hill Avenue station on the Fairmount Line, and the investment in the Mattapan trolley line, saying the investment in the community is “incredible.”

Said Steve Poftak, the general manager of the MBTA: “We are taking an underutilized MBTA asset, we are taking funding from the city, we are taking support from the state and our partners in the nonprofit and private sectors. This is going to turn into a home. People are going to live, shop, educate their children here. They are going to have great access to transportation.”

Residents who have participated in the planning of the Mattapan Station development said the project has been a long time coming; they also mentioned the community input in the process.

“We meet and we sit down and we put together our ideas on what our community wants,” said Myrtle Huggins, chair of Apple Grove Civic Association.

Kenya Beaman, a Mattapan resident and community engagement officer for the Boston Planning and Development Agency, said the project is “a step in the right direction for Mattapan. As long as our neighbors and our long-time residents and the seniors are not displaced, and they are here and can reap the benefits of the good changes and development in the neighborhood, it’s a great thing,” she added.

Vivian Ortiz, a transit advocate who lives in Mattapan, said that the transit-oriented Mattapan project shows some forward thinking in addressing the traffic issue in the neighborhood.

“The 135 units have 70 units of parking, which is difficult for folks to understand, but transit-oriented development means that you have access to public transportation right in your backyard,” she said. “And, of course, as a person who rides a bike, the fact that there’s going to be safer facilities for us who choose to ride is exciting.”

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