The Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation (NDC) hopes to add four floors of housing above its existing one-story headquarters at the intersection of Southern Avenue and Washington Street. The proposal was made public during a July 5 meeting of the Codman Square Neighborhood Council.
The NDC envisions 45 new units of housing on top of the existing building, which contains its offices and several other businesses. The residential units would include 3 studios, 15 one-bedrooms, 22 two-bedrooms, and 5 three-bedrooms – all of them available to those with income at 60 percent AMI or less.
Gail Latimore, the executive director of the NDC, said the organization is approaching the project with the urgency required in a housing crisis, but is also eager to hear from neighbors.
“It’s our fundamental mission to develop affordable housing,” she told the Reporter last week. “There is a pressure right now and people who live in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan…cannot afford to live here. I stand firm in being unapologetic for building affordable housing, but at the same time we want to be as responsive as we can be to the neighbors and the neighborhood.”
Mark Dinaburg, a former Codman Square NDC Real Estate director who is a consultant on the project, said the idea “came to us with the library proposal and the city talking about housing on top of the Codman Square Library. Boston is having a housing crisis and the city is not manufacturing new land. We have to make do with the resources we have. We want to build up and not displace the businesses there, including our headquarters.”
Marcia Thornhill, the NDC’s vice president of operations, said that one of the existing tenants in the building, the MetroPCS store, will be leaving the site of their own accord, so that location would be used as the entry to the new housing. Likewise, the long-time Haitian American store Petit Kay is winding down its operation via a family decision unrelated to the project.
Those staying would be the NDC, Diaspora Express, All Checks Cashed, and Father’s Uplift on Southern Avenue.
“Right now, we’re talking about retaining the current building, but that could change depending on what the city says,” Thornhill said. “The proposal on the table allows us to keep the existing building and place the units above.”
The plan calls for 11 parking spaces, which might prove to be a sticking point for some neighbors. Neighborhood Council president Cynthia Loesch-Johnson noted with concern that other nearby housing projects have little to no parking included.
“We now have multiple developments coming in without parking,” she said. “It’s very frustrating and we are creating a problem and we need to find out what the solution would be.”
Others who attended the July 5 meeting raised concerns about the building’s height as being the same as the clock on the Second Church across the street. But Latimore said most of their meetings over the past year have shown a majority are supportive. “Our experiences indicate, after 40-plus years of developing here, that our parking is vastly underutilized,” said Latimore, who points to another nearby mixed-use building at 157 Washington St., built in 2012. “That was similar to this, maybe more parking, but nowhere near one-to-one. We’ve had no complaints and that was a major issue there at the time.”
The average subsidized rent of the expanded building would be set at 60 percent AMI for a two-bedroom — or about $1,417, Dinaburg said. Market estimates calculated by Thumbprint Realty for Codman Square suggest a market rate for such a unit would be $3,400 a month.
The project will be supported in part by a $750,000 Congressional Direct Spending grant facilitated by US Sens. Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren to help with the planning. Thornhill said they are just starting to meet with the city and had a meeting on July 11 approaching the Article 80 review under the new expedited process. That process allows housing projects with 40 percent or more affordable housing units to get a faster review process to reduce planning time and planning costs.
In other news from the July 5 Codman Square Neighborhood Council meeting:
• The McDonald’s restaurant in Codman Square, which has five more years left on its lease on Washington Street, recently approached the NDC to inquire about extending the time on their lease as they would like to invest in a complete renovation in the next two years.
• The Codman Square Farmer’s Market kicks off July 15 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a full summer and fall of Saturday markets – many with themes. Catherine Charles will manage the market again and said it would continue through Oct. 14. The BOLD Teens group will once again assist and help organize.
• Free, weekly movie night at Loesch Family Park (formerly Wainwright Park) will begin on Friday, July 14, at 8 p.m. with ‘Zootopia.’ Movies will be shown most every Friday night through the summer but check the codmansquarecouncil.org website for updates.
•Fireworks were hot topic of conversation at the meeting, as many who attended said they did not sleep the night before due to the onslaught of fireworks. They pressed police from District B-3 to come up with a strategy for suppressing the problem, which often extends into September. Police noted they were busy with priority calls, including five people shot in Mattapan around 2:30 a.m. Neighbors countered by saying the fireworks started at 5:30 p.m., and there was little sign of law enforcement.
• On July 22, The Makanda Project will host a free outdoor jazz concert at 1 p.m. in the back lot of the Codman Square Library. Refreshments will be served. The Library will also host the ReadBoston Storymobile every Tuesday at 11 a.m. The Summer Eats program began July 11 and will continue every Tuesday at the library from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
•District 3 City Council candidates Jennifer Johnson and Rosalin Wornum addressed the Neighborhood Council audience about their platforms and priorities.