The East Boston Community Development Corporation (CDC) beat out three other proposals and was chosen as the designated developer of the former Meridian Street branch library by the the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND).
The announcement last week by DND set off a firestorm on social media with many residents frustrated over the city’s pick because it did not reflect community support at meetings regarding the project.
The library, which closed along with the Orient Heights branch, and was consolidated into the new Bremen Street branch, will be redeveloped into something that will include public use.
The CDC, along with the East Boston Ecumenical Community Council (EBECC), are proposing to use historic tax credits to facilitate a historically appropriate renovation of the building. They will create and operate a community facility to improve and deliver social services to constituents. The plan also includes participation by Urban College of Boston and Veronica Robles Cultural Center. Programs will include adult education, youth development, job and skill training and day care for young children. Services will be all inclusive, multicultural and multi-generational. EBCCC will establish an office on the premises. The total development cost would be approximately $2 million with an offer price of $500,000. Financing would come from conventional lender first mortgage, second mortgage from a community development fund and Mass Historic Tax Credits.
Residents who attended the DND sponsored meetings said the city pledged the project would be a community driven process, would reflect what the community wanted and, in the end, would pick a proposal that was inclusive to the neighborhood at large.
Many residents that attended the meetings said that there seemed to be overwhelming support for the proposal put forth by a committee of East Boston residents, led by John and Melissa Tyler. That proposal would be for community oriented uses for this building. 154 Maverick Llc would renovate and upgrade the building as flexible space for the performing arts, small business start-ups, education and creating and designing. The total development cost would initially be $800,000, with a final build-out of $1.6 million to be completed in 4 years. They are offering $100 for the building with financing from philanthropic funding, home equity on the Tyler’s property at 154 Maverick and cash on hand.
While the Tylers’ project would have added new services and growth to the neighborhood, residents complained online after DND’s announcement that the CDC’s project does not add anything new it just reorganizes and consolidates already existing programs into one building. For example, the CDC will take the existing day care at the Orient Heights Housing Development and move it to Meridian Street and the EBECC who already has offices on London Street and provides most of the services in the CDC’s proposal will be moving to the new space.
Residents also voiced concerns that because the project would be subsidized in large by federal tax credits it would only serve one portion of the population instead of the community at large as originally intended.
“There is nothing wrong with these services and they need a space,” said Tina St. Gelais Kelly. “These services just don’t need space in one of Boston’s most historic buildings that was once open to the entire public.”
This isn’t the first time Eastie residents have expressed frustration over the DND choosing the CDC as a designated developer. Nearly a decade ago, the DND chose the CDC as designated developer of the Boston East Site over another project that was supported by the community. At each meeting regarding that project residents, time and again, rejected the CDC’s proposal and opted for a smaller mixed-use development being proposed by Joe Recupiero. In the end DND chose the CDC and the site has remained dormant since 2006.