In an interview with Eva Erlich the vice president of development for Trinity Financial said Phase II to redevelop the entire Orient Heights Public Housing Development remains on track and construction should wrap up in the first quarter of 2020.
“Construction is moving along very well,” said Erlich. “If everything goes well and we have a good winter construction should be completed during the first quarter of 2020 with residents starting to move back to the development soon after.”
Work began on the $51. 6 million Phase II Orient Heights Public Housing Development project this year with Citizens Bank’s Community Development Group providing $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.
The financing from Citizens Bank helped 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 buildings. Phase II will also include improvements to the existing infrastructure and open spaces.
“Once construction on the buildings is done we will still need to finish some landscaping in the spring, renovate the basketball courts, and other odds and ends,” said Elrich.
Elrich said the entire process to replace the aging public housing development has been moving along rather swiftly considering the need to cobble together funding from a variety of different sources.
“We started this project in 2016 and by 2018 we were done with Phase I,” said Elrich. “Phase II will be done by 2020 so for a project of this size it’s been moving pretty quickly and we’d love to keep up that momentum.”
Elrcih said Trinity is now working with partners at the BHA and state to begin exploring funding sources for the last phase of the redevelopment.
“It’s hard when we have to cobble together funding for the different phases especially when funding sources are scarce,” said Elrich. “But we’ve been lucky and have been able to seamlessly move from one phase to the next and secure funding as we go along for each phase.”
Trinity also had some initial conversations with Eastie’s elected officials to discuss the possibility of Suffolk Downs Developer, HYM Investment, becoming a funding partner. HYM plans to transform the 160 plus-acre former horse racetrack into a mixed-use development with 10,000 units of housing.
Some, like City Councilor Lydia Edwards, have expressed concern that the affordable housing component at Suffolk Downs should be more than the minimum of 13 percent of the total number of units.
Edwards has said she wants to see a real ‘community’ developed there for all and not just for some.
While HYM has not signaled that they would move the needle on the amount of affordable housing on site, becoming a financial partner on the Orient Heights Development may be a good faith gesture that the developer is willing to address affordable housing shortages in the Eastie and Boston as a whole.
“We have initial conversations about this concept with our elected officials,” said Elrich. “They seem generally supportive of the concept but we really need to have further conversations on how something like that would look further down the road.”