August 4, 2021
Developers at the non-profit Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) aired their revised proposal for a three-building development near Grove Hall that would include homeownership and affordable rental units for seniors during a virtual meeting last Thursday.
The development team told about 35 attendees on a call hosted by the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) about plans to construct a four-story complex on a 46,679 square-foot site at 4-18 Cheney St. in Dorchester. The complex would include 59 rental units for seniors and 15 condos for families in two smaller buildings, with nine 3-bedroom units at 24 Cheney St. and six 3-bedroom flats at 3-5 Schuyler St.
All of the units would be income-restricted at or below 60 percent of Area Median Income (AMI) and 20 of the 59 units would come with project-based subsidies, meaning that residents would not pay more than 30 percent of their income to cover rent.
The proposal includes 28 underground parking spaces with two more located on Schuyler Street. The project would also house a conference room, outdoor courtyard space, and an on-site resident services coordinator managed by the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) organization in partnership with Uphams Corner Health Center. Some on-site PACE medical services would be available to neighborhood residents regardless of whether or not they are enrolled in the program.
The team hopes to provide open green space and trees in order to capture stormwater runoff.
Rebecca Mautner, interim director of real estate development at JPNDC, said the mix of condos and senior apartments meets the needs of the immediate neighborhood for “a variety of reasons. This is a significantly sized site and we saw that it lends itself to be able to address a lot of the needs of the community. As a developer we recognized that the neighborhood is not monolithic. It’s not just homeowners, renters, elderly people, or families.”
She added: “Our job as mission-based, community-oriented developers is to provide what the private market does not, and in this neighborhood that means elderly rental housing and homeownership units.”
The group purchased the site in 2018, a time when Mautner said there were “very little homeownership resources available.” She said the landscape has changed since then.
“Research shows there’s a huge affordability crisis for elderly folks and a desire for homeownership, so we tried to come up with a proposal that meets the variety of needs in the neighborhoods and is also financially feasible,” she said.
Some neighbors who joined the call voiced a few concerns, mostly around public safety issues, but no one voiced outright opposition to the project. Some noted they would like to see a transportation study completed and asked the developers to consider the possibility of making the homeownership units townhouses instead of “flats” or condos.
Deborah Bolling, a nearby homeowner, was concerned about crime in the area, and said that by making a clear path through the project, Cheney Street would become a “cut through… for people to get away from the police.”
“From the very beginning we have been against there being a flow from 3-5 Schuyler St. to Cheney Street,” said Bolling. “We know what happens in this neighborhood and we have been very clear with JPNDC regarding this matter.”
“We asked for a full fence, not a gated fence, that closes off Cheney St. from Schuyler St. and the JPNDC said they would be willing to do it but got pushback from the city. There will be people running away from the police coming across Cheney Street through your area into Schuyler Street.”
Sam Montaño, associate director of community organizing at JPNDC, said that the team created a fenced structure to close off the inner open space so that it’s accessible to seniors in the housing complex but not people outside of the building to remedy the community’s public safety concerns.
Michael Kozu, who leads Grove Hall’s Project RIGHT, asked why the developers didn’t make the entire project affordable homeownership units since, he said, that is lacking in Grove Hall.
Replied Mautner: “It’s not feasible to make only affordable homeownership units at this site. We are maximizing the amount of homeownership units we can provide. We also believe it is important to provide deeply affordable housing for low-income seniors.”
There are currently no additional meetings scheduled for the project, although there will be additional steps in the city’s review process. The BPDA’s public comment period is now open, but scheduled to end on Aug. 13. Comments and feedback can be submitted online at bostonplans.org.