By John Lynds
The long-awaited project to overhaul East Boston’s largest public housing development is one step closer to reality.
Construction crews began demolition on the aging Orient Heights Housing Development, a place that has part of East Boston’s landscape for over a half a century.
In December the Boston Housing Authority, East Boston Community Development Corporation, and Trinity Financial broke ground on Phase One of the redevelopment of BHA’s Orient Heights development.
Phase One, which began last week includes the demolition of four existing buildings containing 90 dwelling units and the central boiler plant, and will result in the new construction of 120 affordable housing units in a series of clustered townhouses and a mid-rise building along Waldemar Avenue, the northern section of the 15-acre Orient Heights site. This phase is part of a comprehensive, multiple phase master-planned redevelopment for the entire Orient Heights development. As it stands, Orient Heights is comprised of 331 units of state-funded public housing terraced into a steep hillside built in 1951 and is in great need of maintenance and modernization.
According to plans approved by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) the existing 331 public housing units will be demolished and completely reconstructed in three phases.
The first phase is expected to cost approximately $52 million.
However, funding is still being sought for phases two and three, but Trinity Financial and the BHA hope to begin construction of those phases in 2018 and 2020, respectively.
A fourth and final phase would create 42 units of market rate housing to round out the project, but construction is not expected to begin until at least 2023 on this component.
According to Trinity the goal of the project will be to construct a development to high sustainability and energy efficiency standards with a target of LEED Silver certificate at a minimum.
“We are very pleased with the progress Trinity has made to date in the revitalization of the Orient Heights housing development,” said the BHA’s William McGonagle. “We look forward to the full restoration of this community in the months and years to come.”
Upon completion, the collective phasing effort will yield 373 units of housing, 331 of which will be replacement units. A combination of off-street and on-street parking spaces will also be provided.
“We’re thrilled with the progress we have made thus far on Phase One of the Orient Heights redevelopment,” said Trinity Financial Vice President of Development Eva Erlich. “With this first phase currently underway, the reality of the new housing for the residents at this development is that much closer. We’re excited to have the opportunity to create a development that the entire community, especially the residents, can benefit from.”