Wu calls Pine Street a city ‘partner’ as nonprofit pushes Comfort Inn proposal

Mayor Michelle Wu lauded Pine Street Inn, a nonprofit that serves as the largest homelessness program provider in the region, as it weighs turning Morrissey Boulevard’s Comfort Inn into permanent, supportive housing for formerly homeless people.

Pine Street is working with The Community Builders, a nonprofit development company, on a proposal that would convert the Comfort Inn, which has 130 rooms, into 105 to 110 units for formerly homeless people. The proposal also calls for lounge and office space for Pine Street’s social workers.

In an interview with the Reporter, Wu called Pine Street a “national leader” in providing economic stability and supportive housing. The nonprofit has had a “real impact” on chronic homelessness in Boston, even as the city still struggles with a housing market that “leaves a lot of people behind,” she added.

City officials conduct an annual homeless census and this year’s occurred the night of Feb. 23. City officials released results in June and said there was a 2.4 percent decrease from last year, to 1,545 people from 1,659 in 2021. Pine Street Inn operates 34 permanent supportive housing buildings in the Boston and Brookline area.

“We have great feedback from the properties that they currently run and they work very closely with community members to ensure this is a benefit for everyone,” Wu said.

Asked about the particular proposal for the Comfort Inn, which is located at 900 Morrissey, Wu said, “We’re still very early in this particular process.” The proposal, if it moves ahead, would need zoning approvals, as it would switch from a hotel to residential use, and it also requires sign-off from the Boston Planning and Development Agency.

But, she added, “we need more supportive housing in the city and there is no better partner than Pine Street to make sure that it is well run and supplements the community and area.”

The Community Builders and Pine Street Inn are hosting a community meeting regarding the proposed plan for 900 Morrissey Blvd., Comfort Inn at Richard J. Murphy School Cafeteria, 1 Worrell St., on Tuesday, Sept. 27, from 7 to 9 p.m.

The Comfort Inn is located across from a Stop & Shop supermarket and the Richard J. Murphy K-8 School. It is also around the corner from two major properties that are set to be the sites of hundreds of apartments.

The properties, including the Comfort Inn, are owned by the Strazzula family. The Comfort Inn property is assessed at $13.2 million, according to city records.

Pine Street Inn has said it hopes to buy the property in early 2023. Renovation would follow during the summer, with tenants moving into the building in 2024.

“Once people are no longer homeless, life changes dramatically for them,” Lyndia Downie, president and executive director of Pine Street Inn, told the Reporter in August. “We know this is a model that works. We know it helps end homelessness. There’s a misperception of what Pine Street Inn does and a worry that there’s going to be a lot of loitering. Once people become tenants in this building, they’re no longer homeless. They have a place to go.”

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