Last Tuesday afternoon, Acting Mayor Kim Janey, East Boston elected officials, and residents of the Orient Heights Public Housing community came together to celebrate the last phase of a complete overhaul of the neighborhood’s public housing development on the backside of Breed’s Hill.
Janey was joined by the development team of Trinity Financial and the East Boston Community Development Corporation (EBCDC) as well as officials from the Boston Housing Authority (BHA), and the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) for the ceremonial groundbreaking at the Orient Heights Overlook Terrace site.
Four years after kicking off the three-phase redevelopment of the Orient Heights Public Housing Development Trinity Financial began construction on Phase III of the project back in January.
Like Phase I and Phase II, Phase III will tear down the old post World War II-era brick housing on Vallar Road and portions of Faywood Avenue and be replaced with 81 units of new public housing. An additional 42 units of existing public housing would be modernized as part of Phase III. Phase III will also include the construction of a centrally located park for residents, the demolition of the existing community center and the expansion of open space.
“Overlook Terrace at Orient Heights is the result of great partnerships between the city, the state, the East Boston neighborhood, and the development and financial partners who have shown a real commitment to this community,” said Janey. “Phase Three will mark completion of this historic initiative to provide a first-rate living experience to more than 300 families in public housing.”
As part of the FY22 Capital Plan, Janey committed up to $19 million for Phase III of the project. The State is providing $17.5 million in capital funds, as well as an allocation of 4 percent and State Low Income Housing Tax Credits. Two weeks ago Citizens Bank’s Community Development Group provided a $40.7 million construction loan to Trinity Financial to help Phase III of the project get past the goalline.
“Orient Heights is more than a collection of buildings. It’s a strong, proud community where generations of low income Boston residents have lived and raised their families for decades,” said BHA Administrator Kate Bennett. “This final phase fulfills a promise, to secure a future and a home for those families right here at Orient Heights.”
The $51. 6 million Phase II portion of the project wrapped up last summer on Vallar Road. There, crews demolished 87 old units in four buildings and constructed 88 replacement state-funded public housing units in two townhouse buildings and one mid-rise building. Phase II also included improvements to the existing infrastructure and open spaces.
“We are thrilled to begin construction of this final phase,” said Vice President of Development of Trinity Financial Eva Erlich. “Trinity’s Overlook Terrace development team is just one part of a tremendous collaborative effort among the public and private sectors, and the residents and community that will bring the vision for this property to fruition and help serve the affordable housing needs for East Boston.”
Phase III is part of the larger effort to transform the 331-unit BHA owned public housing development that was originally built in 1951. Trinity completed Phase I of the project in 2018 where 90 units of public housing were replaced with 120 units of public housing both in townhouse and apartment-style buildings.
“Public housing is a public good,” said Rep. Adrian Madaro. “It was an honor to join Mayor Janey, (former) Senator Boncore, Secretary Kennealy, Councilor Edwards, and community leaders for the groundbreaking of Orient Heights Phase III. Everyone deserves a safe and dignified home. For too long, we have failed to properly invest in public housing. I’m pleased the Orient Heights Apartments will receive much-needed upgrades. These upgrades are an investment in residents and our neighborhood.”
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 secured financing to implement the redevelopment, and will own and manage the buildings post-redevelopment.