The development team trying to construct over 400 units of housing on a series of parking lots on Breman and Orleans Streets hopes bringing in the East Boston Community Development Corporation (EBCDC) as a community partner and increase affordable housing opportunities will ease some community concerns over the size and scope of the project.
The Davis Company seeks to redevelop four parcels along Breman and Orleans Streets used for East Boston Health Center employee parking into a mixed-use development. The four parcels of land are located at 75-115 Bremen Street, 135B Bremen Street, 147-163 Orleans Street, and 164 Orleans Street, respectively.
However, the parcels’ close proximity to the Mary Ellen Welch Greenway has community activists worried that the proposed buildings would cast a portion of the bright and sunny greenway into darkness. However, many of the community activists fighting to protect Eastie’s greenspace are also longtime affordable housing advocates.
Last week, The Davis Companies and East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) invited the EBCDC to help create a substantial increase in the affordable housing opportunities at the proposed project–hoping to win over some in the community that are dead set against anything being built along the greenway that would loom large over the network of green space.
“Welcoming our long-time partner, the EBCDC, as a developer, will enable this project to significantly increase true affordable housing in East Boston,” said EBNHC President and CEO Manny Lopes. “EBNHC has thoughtfully and deliberately chosen the developers of these parcels to ensure the community has the resources it needs. Moreover, EBNHC will commit nearly $3 million of the net deal proceeds to subsidize the units for lower income residents. A true win for our community.”
Stephen Davis, Co-President of The Davis Companies, said the new approach comes about as a result of feedback from the community and the EBNHC Board. Over the past year, The Davis Companies sought community input relative to the planned development. The Davis Companies conducted outreach in a number of ways including phone surveys, online surveys, meetings and mailings to gauge public sentiment and catalogue community priorities. All outreach was conducted in English and Spanish.
“We heard loud and clear from the community about the need to go above and beyond on affordable housing,” said Davis. “We believe that we have collectively identified a way for this project to have an outsized impact on the creation of affordable housing, well beyond the City’s baseline requirements, and ultimately result in a much better project for the East Boston Community.”
According to Davis, the EBCDC will build the affordable housing component of the project creating roughly 70 units of deeply affordable family housing. The new arrangement will allow the overall development to provide housing that serves households who earn between 30% and 60% of the Area’s Median Income, or AMI. The affordable component will include much needed 2 and 3-bedroom units meant to serve Eastie households most at risk of displacement due to rising rents in the neighborhood.
“We are looking forward to working to build upon all that makes East Boston a special place to call home,” said President/CEO of EBCDC Al Caldarelli. “By developing a project that minimizes congestion, adds substantial new affordable housing, enhances open space and contributes to a walkable and connected East Boston, we believe we can do just that.”
With three of the parcels adjacent to the Mary Ellen Welch Greenway, the Davis Companies said they want to offer an opportunity to create a thoughtful gateway space within the cherished public asset and enhance its access.
However, not everyone is buying it.
“The Davis Company along with their partners, the EBNHC and the EBCDC want to put up 400 plus units, up to 8 stories high, along the Mary Ellen Welch Greenway creating shadows and a tunnel effect,” said longtime activist Gail Miller. “What greenway promotes tall buildings? The Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston does not have tall buildings butting right up against their greenway and nor should ours in Eastie.”