Orient Heights Redevelopment Project Receives Construction Financing Help

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

This week Citizens Bank announced today that its Community Development Group has provided $26 million in construction financing to help with Phase II of the project.

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 greatly value our partnership with Citizens Bank and appreciate the Community Development Group’s market knowledge and excellent execution,” said Eva Erlich, vice president of development for Trinity Financial. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Citizens team as the construction of this second phase progresses.”

The financing from Citizens Bank will help demolish 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. Phase II will also include improvements to the existing infrastructure and open spaces, and is anticipated to be completed in 2020.
“This project meets a crucial need in the community and we’re excited to work with Trinity Financial and the East Boston CDC to support more affordable housing for Boston residents,” said President, Citizens Bank Massachusetts Jerry Sargent.

Phase II will also 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.
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’s were some concern 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 town 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 we heard concerns about increased density without a second road that would connect Vallar Road and Waldemar Avenue.

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 expansive to make that connection from street to street.
When Trinity the community on this development last winter 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 the brand new park planned for where Vallar Road meets Faywood Avenue as an example of increasing the project’s open space.

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