Overlook Terrace Completion Celebrated by Many

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

On Friday, June 23, folks from several organizations, city, and state departments, and current and former elected officials gathered to celebrate the completion of phase three of Overlook Terrace — which marks the total completion of the redevelopment of a 331-unit public housing community in Orient Heights.

This project’s planning process is one that began back in 2008 — initiated by the Boston Housing Authority (BHA).

Then in 2015, with the help of funding from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) — now known as the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC) — the development team of Trinity Financial and East Boston Community Development Corporation was selected.

Later, construction would begin and be done in three phases leading up to what is now a new and improved public housing community.

The first phase was completed in 2018 with the construction of 120 replacement state public housing units, followed by phase two completion in 2020 with 88 units and the addition of community open space, all culminating with phase three with 123 units and a new public park.

“We live in a time when it has become increasingly clear how important quality, sustainable and affordable housing is for our health and well-being,” said Eva Erlich, Vice President – Development at Trinity Financial.

“As a result of everyone’s efforts and investments, this final phase of the redevelopment of Overlook Terrace at Orient Heights is providing just that,” she added.

The celebration, which included a ribbon-cutting ceremony, music, lawn games, and the opportunity to see some of the new units, was undoubtedly emotional for many reasons.

During the speaking portion of the ceremony, some who stood before the podium spoke about those who, unfortunately, could not see the final product of everyone’s hard work.

These individuals noted specifically were Carol Johnson of the Orient Heights Local Tenant Organization, Bill McGonagle, former BHA Administrator, and Marzuq Muhammad of Trinity Financial, all of whom have passed away.

“I’m very much feeling the presence of Carol Johnson and owe a debt of gratitude to her for, I think, setting a tone for this project to really realize the resident vision, and all of the partners just coalesced around that vision,” said Kate Bennett, outgoing BHA Administrator.

Former City Councilor Sal LaMattina passionately spoke about McGonagle’s involvement with the project and about a time McGonagle drove by to check out its progress.

“Every time I drive by here, I think of Bill McGonagle — I drive by here every single day,” said LaMattina.

Bennett also spoke about Muhammad’s work, saying, “I’m very much feeling Marzuq today, and I owe him a debt of gratitude as well for all of the effort and heart that he put into this project.”

The ceremony was also emotional in a different aspect, in that many of those who spoke acknowledged and thanked the departing Bennett for her work as BHA administrator.

“She’s [Bennett] the reason that I’m here. She’s, I think, one of those people who just touches everybody who works with her,” said incoming BHA Administrator Kenzie Bok.

“I’d have to be remiss if I didn’t salute Kate Bennett for her great tenure as BHA Administrator. She has been an incredible partner to the state — she’s been an incredible partner in the mission of providing quality, affordable housing,” said Ben Stone, the Director for the Division of Public Housing with EOHLC.

“Through her work and leadership, BHA is seen as a leader among public housing agencies nationwide,” he added.

In addition to the kind words, Bennett was gifted a book when LaMattina and former City Councilor Paul Scapicchio took the podium. Bennett was also given a framed photo depicting her relationship with the developers, which was presented by Sheila Dillon, the city’s Chief of Housing, and Erlich.

After she received a standing ovation, Bennett thanked all of the speakers for their kind words. She finished her remarks by saying, “This is just a beautiful way to sort of, you know, spend some of my last days at BHA.”

“It’s been an amazing ride. It’s truly been the privilege of a lifetime to serve in the role as Administrator. But really, just to be at BHA for 25 years has been an amazing experience and privilege,” said Bennett.

Overall, in what was an emotional event, it is clear that everyone involved is delighted to see this project completed.

“I really just want to thank everybody that came today and thank all of the partners that have made such a beautiful redevelopment possible,” said Bennett.

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