Series of Meetings for Orient Heights Housing Development Begin

Boston Housing Authority Administrator Bill McGonagle and Trinity Financial’s Mathieu Zahler held the first in a series of community meetings regarding the Orient Heights Housing Development since Trinity was picked as developer last week to rehab the aging Orient Heights Housing Development.

At Monday night’s Orient Heights Neighborhood Council meeting, McGonagle announced that both the BHA and Trinity are in favor of a complete tear down of the Orient Heights development. This was the same approach Trinity took with the Maverick Housing Development when they redeveloped that public housing site through a Hope VI grant in the early 2000s.

“We are confident the cost between a rehab of the housing development and a complete tear down is minimal,” said McGonagle. “However, we are required to go through a cost analysis before we make that final decision. But we are in favor of demolition over just a rehab.”

Zahler said Trinity is looking to develop something new a better at the site, improve the connection to streets that surround the public housing development and engage the surrounding neighborhood’s character as the cornerstone of the new buildings’ design..

“We will complete the cost study in July,” said Zahler. “We will then begin the design process this summer with permitting in the fall of 2015.”

Zahler said construction on the first phase of the site would begin, hopefully, in the summer of 2016.

“This project will be done in phases with the first phase starting in 2016,” said Zahler. “This would consist of 130 or so of the 300 to 400 units we would build.”

Some design ideas being floated around mimic Trinity’s work on Maverick Gardens with buildings taking on a more ‘townhouse’ feel.

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.

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.

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