The proposed housing development on Bremen and Orleans Streets adjacent to the Mary Ellen Welch Greenway will most likely now incorporate some of the suggestions from the neighbors. The ongoing talks are between the community, the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) and the Davis Companies over the Health Center-owned parcels.
Recently, EBNHC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and General Counsel Ernani DeAraujo gave residents an update on the proposed plans.
“I do have a brief update on where we stand right now with the project,” said DeAraujo. “We’ve been working very diligently over the past few months to process all the community feedback, the elected official feedback and BPDA feedback as well.”
While most were aghast by the initial architectural drawings and the number of units proposed, DeAraujo said the Davis Companies and Health Center will be coming out with a more detailed plan that incorporates dozens of direct comments that both parties received from the community.
“So what you’re actually going to see when we put up the more detailed plan is a lot of the concerns incorporated into the plan,” said DeAraujo. “I think you’re going to see a different, different project across the three acres of land.”
DeAraujo said the BPDA is also putting together an Impact Advisory Group (AIG) in the coming weeks and residents should get more details on that process soon.
Once the AIG is in place DeAraujo said the community will begin to hear more details on the community benefits package for the neighborhood as it relates to the project.
“I’m really excited about this project,” said DeAraujo. “I understand this as a lifelong East Boston resident that there is a lot of construction and a lot of building going on. We’ve gotten a lot of comments and feedback on that and we’re committed to working through this process to make sure that what is put across these acres of land is beneficial to the community.”
As for the original proposal of 471 units DeAraujo said that will most likely come down as community concerns are factored into an updated proposal.
“So, what we originally proposed was 471 units across all the parcels, but there are changes to that,” said DeAraujo.
DeAraujo also clarified the Davis Companies’ agreement with the EBNHC over the land.
“So we’re not doing an outright sale of the land,” DeAraujo. “It’s kind of a contingent arrangement where we’re working with the Davis Companies and the Health Center will get resources depending on how many homes are actually permitted (by the city). We kind of did an evaluation just from the Health Centers perspective and asked ourselves do we sell the land outright, basically put it on the market and someone says, “Hey here’s X number of dollars” and we sell it and then move on. Or do we become a co-developer and help develop and manage the property. We decided to stay through the process with Davis Companies and the Health Center will get paid depending on how many homes are permitted.”
DeAraujo said for each home that is permitted the Health Center will get a guaranteed fixed amount of $80,000.
“So, in the original proposal of 400 plus units that could be over $30 million (for the Health Center),” said DeAraujo. “So we very much want to see as many homes approved on the site as possible. That $80,000 is not a percentage–it is a fixed amount we negotiated (with the Davis Companies).”
However, still not everyone in the community is pleased with the arrangement.
“This sounds to me like it’s a partnership in real estate,” Sandra Nijjar told DeAraujo at the meeting. “You’re going to be making money based on how much Davis is able to sell. This is very disappointing. I love the neighborhood Health Center but I can’t believe that you have gone in this direction.” The original size, scope and scale of the development worried Friends of the Mary Ellen Welch Greenway members and residents that the proposed seven-story buildings would cast a portion of the bright and sunny greenway into darkness