With shovels in the ground, start of Cote Village hailed as a milestone for Mattapan

Mayor Martin Walsh, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and other state officials including Senator Nick Collins, Rep. Russell Holmes and Rep. Daniel Cullinane joined with Cardinal Seán O’Malley and development officials on Wed., Dec. 18 for a groundbreaking ceremony at the future site of Cote Village, a mixed-use project on Cummins Highway in Mattapan. Isabel Leon/Mayor's Office photo

The upcoming transformation of a long-abandoned car dealership on Cummins Highway into 76 units of affordable housing just steps from a new commuter rail station on the Fairmount Line in Mattapan was greeted with the adage that “many hands make light work” during a groundbreaking ceremony at the site last Wednesday.

The project – Cote Village – was hailed as a milestone by Mayor Martin Walsh, who initiated the effort in 2014 when he directed the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development to seek private partners to redevelop the property. Walsh was joined at the groundbreaking by other city and state leaders, including Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito.

“Today we’re breaking ground on projects that mean so much to the Mattapan community and for the entire city of Boston. We’re creating affordable homes at a variety of income levels, something that we strive to do every day. We’re adding commercial space that will bring economic opportunities to the neighborhood, when you think about a complete development, that’s what this is,” said the mayor. “The city of Boston is proud to support these new developments as part of our commitment to keeping housing affordable and keeping neighborhoods strong.”

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) originally approved the project in 2016, putting its cost at $31.2 million. After a number of community comment sessions, final approvals were given last July.

The development is a collaboration of the Planning Office for Urban Affairs, Inc. (POUA) and the Caribbean Integration Community Development (CICD) group. The non-profit agencies worked in a unique partnership, with design services added by Davis Square Architects.

The units will be available to residents at a range of incomes, including 12 units for residents with incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median income (AMI) — people earning less than $27,900 for a household of three). Of these units, 8 will be set aside for formerly homeless individuals and families.

Two units will be reserved for residents with incomes at or below 50 percent of AMI; 42 units for residents with incomes at or below 60 percent of AMI; 12 units for residents with incomes at or below 80 percent AMI; and 8 units for residents with incomes at or below 100 percent of AMI.

Cardinal Seán O’Malley was on hand and offered a prayer after saying a few words about the moral significance of affordable housing. “Being the wealthiest country in the world with half a million homeless people, no one can deny the great challenge that is before us — providing decent housing for our people, this is one more effort along those lines. This is an ongoing challenge in building a more just society, so I’m very grateful for all of you who do so much.” 

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Mayor Martin Walsh, left, spoke with residents who gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony at the future site of Cote Village in Mattapan on Wed., Dec. 18. Isabel Leon photo/Mayor’s Office

“We have a full house today and that really speaks to the commitment for this site,” said Donald Alexis, President of CICD. “I want to thank the many members of the community who worked for this community asset. Our goal was to create housing that reflects the needs of the working-class residents in Mattapan and I believe we’ve accomplished that here.” 

“Along the way it has been tough. We’ve had many community meetings. In Haitian-Creole we have a saying, ‘Men Anpil, Chay Pa Lou,’ meaning “many hands make light work.” A lot of people here were involved, and we did it,” added Alexis. 

Rep. Dan Cullinane called the groundbreaking an “incredible celebration for so many people. This building has been decaying and sitting empty for over 30 years. It’s been a public safety risk, it’s been an eye-sore, and today we couldn’t be happier to say that this has been an intentional investment in affordable housing right here in Mattapan.” 

He added: “On days like this when we’re breaking ground or cutting a ribbon, it can seem like it was simple to get this done. But as so many of the people sitting here know, that’s never the case. We know as a delegation, under Mayor Walsh’s leadership and under this administration’s leadership, Rep. [Russell] Holmes, Sen. [Nick] Collins, and former Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, who deserves tremendous recognition for making this a reality, that this doesn’t happen by accident,” said Cullinane.  

The city and state helped to finance the development through a combination of tax credits and loans, as well as a $750,000 award from the Neighborhood Housing Trust and $4.8 million from the Inclusionary Development Policy fund.

“The creation of new affordable and workforce housing options is a moral imperative and critical to maintaining the city of Boston and the Commonwealth as a vibrant community and a place to live,” said William Grogan, president of the Planning Office for Urban Affairs at the Archdiocese of Boston, co-developer of the project.

“We are especially grateful to the Commonwealth, the city, our funders and supporters who have made the development of Cote Village possible, especially to our partners at the Caribbean Integration CDC,” he said. “The groundbreaking represents an important step in our collective efforts to address the housing need in communities like Mattapan.”

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