Work Has Begun:Trinity Financial Begins Second Phase of Orient Heights Public Housing Development Project

November 26, 2018
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After several community meetings over the summer, Trinity Financial and the City of Boston announced that work has begun on the $51. 6 million Phase II Orient Heights Public Housing Development project.

“Today we celebrate another significant milestone in the revitalization of Orient Heights,” said Mayor Martin Walsh. “This effort will continue to improve the lives of our residents, while creating a community that more appropriately fits in with the surrounding neighborhood.”

Trinity has already completed Phase I of the project where 90 units of public housing were replaced with 120 units of public housing both in townhouse and apartment-style buildings.

Like Phase I, Phase II will tear down the old, post, World War II-era brick housing on Vallar Road and replace it with 88 modern units of public housing.

Phase II is part of a larger effort to transform the 331-unit of Boston Housing Authority (BHA) owned public housing development that was originally built in 1951.

“We look forward to continuing our work with Trinity Financial, our development partners, to revitalize the Orient Heights public housing community,” said BHA Administrator Bill McGonagle.

According to city officials, Phase II will include the demolition of 87 existing units in four buildings and the construction of 88 replacement state-funded public housing units in two townhouse buildings and one mid rise building. The redevelopment will also include improvements to the existing infrastructure and open spaces, and is anticipated to be completed in 2020.

“It is amazing to see the changes in our community since the completion of Phase One,” said resident Carol Johnson. “The residents of Orient Heights are pleased and enthusiastic about what is to follow with Phase Two.”

Phase Two will leverage $10 million in proceeds from the sale of the Winthrop Square Garage, as well as $1.83 million in Inclusionary Development Policy Funds, secured from the Davis Companies’ 99 Sumner Street development in East Boston.

“We look forward to continuing our work with Trinity Financial, our development partners, to revitalize the Orient Heights public housing community,” said BHA Administrator Bill McGonagle.

In January 2015, the BHA selected the development team of Trinity Financial and East Boston Community Development Corp. to work with BHA and Department of Housing and Community Development (DCHD) and finalize a redevelopment strategy for the site. This development team will secure financing to implement the redevelopment, and will own and manage the buildings post-redevelopment.

Over the summer there were some concerns expressed at community meetings and on social media regarding the project. Some suggested the project has undergone drastic changes to the original design, and will soon run out of money.

In response to some of the disinformation circulating around the neighborhood, Trinity Financial’s Eva Erlich said while some minor tweaks were made to the project they were done in response to residents’ concerns at previous meetings.

Trinity  eliminated the 42 units of non-public market rate housing that was part of the original plan, but this was after concerns about increased density without a second road that would connect Vallar Road and Waldemar Avenue were voiced.

When the project started the cost of connecting Vallar Road with Waldemar Avenue below justified connecting the two streets. With an original price tag of $3 million the cost soared to nearly $10 million after the road was studied and the soil tested. After meeting with engineers and looking at the cost so the road can meet city standards it became very expensive to make that connection from street to street.

When the community residents expressed concern that replacing the 331 units of public housing and then adding an additional 42 units of market rate housing could lead to congestion without the two roads connecting. So in response to these concerns Trinity decided to focus on replacing the 331 units over the same land area and eliminate the market rate component.

Erlich said these changes allowed Trinity to add more housing units on Waldemar during Phase I, as well as, freeing up some space as part of Phase II to add new open space for the community as well as refurbishing the basketball courts and community room.

Erlich said Trinity pointed out the brand new park planned for where Vallar Road meets Faywood Avenue as an example of increasing the project’s open space.