HVNA Mulls 64 Homer Street Parcel

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

 Theresa Strachila, a Program Manager with GrowBoston – the Office of Urban Agriculture – joined the monthly Harbor View Neighborhood Association (HVNA) meeting on Monday, Apr. 3, to discuss what residents want to see in the potential use of the 64 Homer Street parcel.

The city owns the parcel in question, which spans 2,500 square feet and has been vacant for several years. Now the city is beginning the process of selling this land and used last week’s meeting to understand what residents are for or against at the site.

Although this process is just beginning, Strachila mentioned that there already has been interest to use the site as open space in a few different ways.

“We have heard interest in permanently preserving the site as public open space or private open space. We have heard about interest for urban agriculture that would include some educational programming for youth and be available for public access. We’ve also heard interest in private purchase for private use as open space,” said Strachila.

One potential suitor for the property who has shown interest is Eastie Farm, a non-profit organization focusing on climate justice, food access, and education. Another potential buyer is an abutter who claims he has been taking care of the vacant property for several years.

“I’ve been an abutter to that property for 51 years. I’ve been taking care of that lot for what 30 years now since it’s been empty. I’ve been cutting the grass, snow blowing, cutting the weeds – it’s been invading my yard,” said the abutter.

He also spoke about how he had been trying to get in contact with the city about the property for years, saying, “The city has not said one word to me about any of this, and now you want to potentially build on that lot which was small, to begin with.”

According to Skip Marcella, an HVNA Board Member, the abutter has indicated that if he were to gain ownership of the property, he would not build on it and leave it as open space.

It should also be noted that it seemingly does not look like the city is pushing for the property to be developed as something like housing.

“While it is possible that one to two units could be built on this lot, we’ve heard from neighbors that they’re not interested in having housing built on it. So, that is not what we’re exploring right now,” said Strachila.

As part of a potential sale, the city is incorporating feedback from residents, which will help it draft a request for proposals (RFP).

During this process, the city must adhere to state law and hold an “open and fair competitive process,” allowing interested buyers to apply to purchase the property with plans that are consistent with the future RFP.

Moreover, by law, the city is allowed to sell the parcel under its fair market value. However, it needs to be justified by a “strong public benefit,” Strachila gave an example of affordable housing. Furthermore, Strachila indicated that if the property were to be sold to a private individual – an abutter – they would have to pay fair market value.

Throughout much of the meeting, there seemed to be growing support for keeping the parcel as open space. However, at least one resident thought developing the area for affordable housing might be prudent.

As aforementioned, this process is in its early stages, and Strachila indicated that she would continue to talk with abutters about the project and would come back to another meeting at a later date for updates before a vote would take place.

“If there are other thoughts or things you’d like to share, please do reach out to me. The more folks I hear from – we want to engage with the direct abutters, and we want to engage with other folks living in the neighborhood,” said Strachila.

Strachila can be reached via email at [email protected] or via phone at 617-635-0267. For more information about this project, you can visit bit.ly/homerstreet.

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