By John Lynds
Three developers have responded to the Department of Neighborhood Development’s (DND) Request for Proposals for a city-owned site on Condor Street across from the Hess Site.
Following a series of community meetings with the Eagle Hill Civic Association (EHCA) where DND officials got feedback from residents on what type of project the community would like to see at the site, DND sent out a Request For Proposal (RFP). In request, the city asked interested parties to come up with plans that included affordable housing that includes a substantial amount of units for artists living and workspace.
The East Boston Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH), Z Capital Investment and Pennrose Properties, LLC all submitted proposals to DND.
The three proponents shared their unique visions for the site at last Wednesday’s EHCA meeting.
First, NOAH said they would partner with the East Boston Community Development Corporation (CDC) to create a 41-unit project that includes a mixed-use,mixed-income, ownership/rental housing and gallery spaces for Eastie artist community and community at large.
NOAH’s project, dubbed ‘Aileron’ will include eight ownership units, half workforce rate and half market rate, in one building with 33-units occupying a larger building next door. Of the 33 units in the larger building 17 will be set aside for artist work/living space.
NOAH is also proposing two large common spaces, a Gallery and Workbar, that will be available for the other residents in the building. These are communal spaces, and are not be strictly artist work space. NOAH’s Phil Giffee said the ‘workbar’ space will be on the ground floor of the 33-unit rental building.
The Gallery space will have wireless internet access, mirrored walls and perhaps a gas-fed fireplace. NOAH envisions a comfortable, neatly appointed space where there can be conversion, communication and community for artists. Giffee said neighborhood residents who are interested in having a space to work can access this space as well. Also, there will be an open streetscape concept in the rental building that will highlight public studio and gallery spaces on the ground floor.
Next, Z Capital is proposing a mix of artist rental housing and homeownership units. Z Capital would like to develop 10 affordable homeownership townhouses on the parcel as well as two additional buildings with 38 affordable rental units that serves artists. One of the buildings will be a cluster of 15 studios for artists, and will have a dedicated shared studio space for them to work on the ground floor. The second building will have 23 units and will be a mix of studio, two and three bedroom units. Both buildings will have an artist preference, but the second building will allow for a more diverse workforce in fields like graphic and web design, theater, architecture and other creative professions to be part of the community.
Z Capital’s Zeina Talje said her team wants to also provide shared ground floor space that includes an artist collaborative workspace, art gallery and cafe, a co-working space along with the typical building spaces like lobby, mail room, and management office. The proposal would also provide outdoor green space and exhibit space as well as opportunities for seating around the building to activate the sidewalk.
Finally Pennrose Properties wants to develop an intentional artist live-work community where artists can pursue their craft, innovate and collaborate with their peers, and live communally with others who share their passion for arts and creativity.
Pennrose’s Charlie Adams said his company is proposing 58 new housing units. Out of those units, four will be homeownership townhouses and 54 will be rental units. Adams said 27 of the 54 rental units will be dedicated for artists while the remaining 27 units will be open to the general public. Of the 54 total units, 31 will be income restricted, 10 will be considered workforce housing while the remaining 13 units will be market rate rental housing units.
Pennrose’s proposal will balance shared workspace with privacy for artists. Adams said shared workspace can allow for collaboration and boost creativity, but many artists Pennrose spoke to prior to submitting their proposal expressed a concern for security for their supplies and artworks, as well as the ability to maintain cleanliness, noise control, and safety within their own spaces. Adams said any work space provided must speak to these dual, and potentially conflicting, needs.
Adams said Pennrose plans to create an artists workspace on the first floor of the 54 unit building. This workspace has been designed as flexible space for artists, which may be either open with lockable storage, or fully enclosed 150 square foot “rooms.” If selected Adams said the team would engage local artists in a design charrette to elicit more thoughts on how this space should be arranged to best suite artists’ needs.
On the ground floor of the rental building’s lobby will serve a dual purpose as a lobby and a gallery space for public events and gatherings. On the second floor there is an enclosed multi-purpose room which can be used for anything from workshops and trainings to private events, and will be geared towards resident uses.