BHA to Rehab Orient Heights Housing Development

The Boston Housing Authority (BHA) announced a developer to rehab the aging Orient Heights Housing Development.

Trinity Financial, known for their award winning work at Maverick Gardens during the Hope VI rehabilitation close to a decade ago, will be the developer for the project and will discuss some preliminary plans at the next Orient Heights Neighborhood Council (OHNC) meeting next Monday, June 15.

“Trinity Financial has a proven track record in the redevelopment of distressed public housing. Maverick Gardens is just one example,” said BHA Administrator Bill McGonagle. “Trinity in partnership with the BHA and the East Boston C.D.C. will undertake a vibrant and inclusive community process to insure that the Orient Heights housing development is transformed into a great place to live for the residents of the development and a great neighbor and asset to the entire East Boston neighborhood.”

McGonagle said there will be a planning process regarding the designs that will include upcoming public meetings so the BHA has yet to recieve schematics from Trinity. McGonagle said Trinity financial is in the process of conducting the alternative analysis for the site which includes a comprehensive modernization of the existing buildings; a new construction scenario and; and a hybrid scenario. The decision of which alternative to develop will be determined by its cost and ability to meet the goals of the BHA and the other funding partner, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). The study is expected to be completed this summer.

“We’ve generated about $30 million through DHCD grant and capital funds toward the project,” said McGonagle.

The BHA has been looking at a major redevelopment at Orient Heights for some time. Due to ongoing federal budget cuts and encouragement from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the BHA and other housing authorities across the country, are exploring new ways to preserve and redevelop public housing.

Two years ago the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) picked Orient Heights as one of 12 public housing developments in the state to receive High Leverage Asset Preservation Program (HILAPP) funds for an overhaul of more than half the units there.

The BHA will use HILAPP funds to redevelop 120 units of family housing at the Orient Heights development. In addition to DHCD funds, the project proposes to leverage 4 percent tax credit equity, a grant from the City of Boston, mortgage financing, and Section 8 rental subsidies.

Orient Heights is a 330-unit development and this project is the first of an anticipated 3-phase project to modernize the entire development over time.

The BHA and state have already been looking at the site, defining the paths it will take for a comprehensive remodeling and exploring different models of construction and cost.

Like the Maverick Housing development before it was rehabbed under a HOPE VI federal grant the Orient Heights development is isolated and has an odd layout.

The project will take several years from start to finish but.

For many years local elected officials have focused their efforts on trying to improve the quality of life for residents at the Orient Heights Development. They all agree that this is a step in the right direction and renovating the development to a higher standard.

The BHA will receive $5 million to begin the design phases of the projects. By the conclusion of this first competitive cycle, DHCD will invest up to $27 million in capital dollars to support the BHA’s plans for Orient Heights.

City Councilor Sal LaMattina said he was excited to finally see some progress in rehabbing Orient Heights.

“In the city’s Host Community Agreement with Suffolk Downs there was money earmarked for an overhaul of the development,” said LaMattina. “With that being voted down in November 2013 we were back to square one and have had to find other sources of money to get our vision for a better and brighter Orient Heights Development off the ground.”

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