Real Estate Development
RENTAL HOUSING DEVELOPMENT | LIMITED
EQUITY CO-OP | HOMEOWNERSHIP | PIPELINE
PROJECTS | COMMERCIAL
DEVELOPMENT | GREEN DEVELOPMENT | LEVEDO: SOLAR PANELS
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Year 4 of Fairmount Transit-Oriented Development Strategy
Development along the Fairmount commuter rail line continues to be the focus for much of real estate development work. We've expanded the scope of our acquisition work along the line, and have added new foci to this work. Our original smart growth and transit oriented development (TOD) frame continues around the Fairmount Commuter Rail line, a 9-mile commuter rail line that roars through our neighborhood, without stopping. We are seeking to go to scale in our real estate acquisitions with the goal of develop mixed use urban villages within the 1/2 mile radius of each of the two proposed new stops on the Fairmount line in our service area (in the Four Corners area and the Talbot Ave/Lee School area). We continue to work closely with our 3 abutting sister CDCs (Dorchester Bay EDC, Mattapan CDC and South West Boston CDC), through the Fairmount/Indigo CDC Collaborative, to advocate for transit equity (5 new stops in our neighborhood) and to acquire land and buildings around the line for development (TOD). This urban village concept continues to be at the heart of our real estate development strategy. See our website, www.csndc.com, for a copy of the award-winning vision document Boston’s Newest Smart Growth Corridor that outlines our initial urban village concept. Also on our website are more refined Fairmount TOD/Urban Village plans resulting from the community charrettes that occurred in 2007 and were tweaked in 2008.
Through Boston’s Newest Smart Growth Corridor, and the strategic acquisition of specific sites, CSNDC has crafted more definitive plans to undertake both transit-oriented development (TOD) and non-TOD projects in our service area. Transit oriented development strategies have been prioritized for our affordable housing work.
Rental Housing Development
Girls’ Latin Academy (Old and New)
In 2006, CSNDC closed on the purchase and renovation of the historic Girls’ Latin Academy building in Codman Square, and our work was completed in April, 2008. In addition to renovating (and financially re-structuring) the existing 58 housing units, we have added 35 new affordable rental units in the vacant portions of the school building and the gym and the auditorium. This completes the adaptive re-use of this Codman Square landmark. Latin Academy was built in 1900 and it is one of the three historic buildings in the Codman Square Historic District. In 1986, most parts of the building were converted into housing by a private developer. Today the existing housing project has received long-needed capital improvements and financial restructuring.
The Levedo Building (245 Talbot Avenue)
The Levedo Building (“Levedo”) is a new 36,781 square foot building consisting of 24 affordable rental units and one commercial space, on a formerly vacant site of 15,779 square feet, at 245 Talbot Avenue (corner of Talbot Avenue and Mallard Avenue) in the Codman Square area of the Dorchester neighborhood in Boston, developed by Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation (CSNDC). Highlights of the project include: transit oriented, “sustainable” development in support of a new MBTA Fairmount Line commuter rail station (.1 miles from the site), and in support of the Fairmount Collaborative (see Levedo Sustainable Development Narrative); “green” design and construction that meets LEED standards; revitalization of a currently vacant lot on a prominent corner; 100% affordability in a high demand (for affordable rental housing) market; and finally, strong community participation and support. Levedo provides quality rental apartments for 24 lower income households; extends the revitalization (begun with our nearby Talbot-Bernard Homes project) of a fairly blighted stretch of Talbot Avenue around the new MBTA station; and helps re-build a commercial spine between Codman Square and the new MBTA station (through the addition of the commercial space).
Washington-Codman Apts. (367 Washington, 472 Washington, 544 Washington, 4 – 6 Lyndhurst and 702 - 728 Washington Street)
This 54 unit rental project brings together five important sites along the Washington Street spine, from 367 Washington Street in Four Corners, to the 700 block near the Codman Square branch library. It includes two sites we have struggled to redevelop over the last several years: 472 Washington St. (former Ted and Terry’s), and 4 – 6 Lyndhurst. This property was a notorious crime and drug hot-spot which the NDC purchased in spring 2006, and 472 Washington Street was a severely environmentally polluted site formerly owned by Exxon Mobil. At 472 Washington, after years of dis-use, and a court-ordered clean-up of the site by Exxon Mobil, we are now ready to build a new mixed-use building (one block from Dorchester District Court), to include 8 new affordable rental units, and the first newly-constructed commercial space in Codman Square in many years. The other four sites are all important parts of Codman Square’s historical legacy, and will receive renovations in line with Federal historic standards. Lyndhurst will be fully gut-rehabbed, while the other three buildings (currently fully occupied) will undergo moderate rehab. All rehabs will concentrate on “green” and energy saving measures, in line with new public policy. Although our redevelopment plans for Lyndhurst and 472 Washington were set back by the condo crash, we are now well-placed to receive new funding commitments from both the City and State within the next 12 months. This will allow us to go into construction by the end of 2010.
Limited Equity Co-ops
With the fall of the housing market, starting in 2007, the financing, production and sale of new homeownership projects came to a sudden halt. Since our mission of neighborhood revitalization, in line with the wishes of many of our community partners, calls for increasing ownership opportunities as part of a balanced community development strategy, we are exploring new ways to reach this goal. We see limited equity co-ops as a promising new tool for our neighborhood.
Co-ops combine some of the best features of ownership and rental housing. Co-op members own shares in a co-op corporation, which in turn owns the real estate the members live in. Through the co-op corporation, the members make all important housing decisions: setting rent levels; selecting the property management company; determining lease and eviction terms; implementing improvements and repairs, etc. Co-op shares appreciate over time, like homeowners’ equity. At the same time, through use of public subsidy programs (like Low Income Housing Tax Credits), share prices and rents can be kept affordable to moderate and lower income families, who would otherwise be priced out of the ownership market. We will also use our fledgling Individual Development Account (IDA) Program to support residents in making their equity contributions towards their co-op share. Successful examples of limited equity coops in Boston include Marksdale Gardens, St. Josephs, Methunion Manor, and Fensgate.
In 2009, we are moving ahead with our first limited equity co-op: the A B & W Building (157 Washington Street).
A B & W Building (157 Washington Street)
We closed on acquisition of this 28,000 industrial building in July 2007. Located 1 block away from the proposed Four Corners Fairmount/Indigo Line stop, this is a key transit oriented development (TOD) project. We will replace the existing building (while saving the historic façade), with a new, 3 1/2 story mixed-use development. It will include retail spaces facing a public plaza on Washington Street, plus 24 limited equity co-op units. A thorough community process for the project culminated in broad agreement for our modified development program. The process included extensive work with a neighborhood committee, to understand the challenges and opportunities of co-ops, and to set basic guidelines for the co-op corporation. We are also putting special emphasis on “greening” this building, as a model for future sustainable development. We have won nearly $2 million in City funding commitments, and expect to receive final State commitments by December ’09. Construction start is planned for 2010, so the project can be completed and occupied in time for the opening of the Four Corners Fairmount station in 2011. As a key Fairmount/Indigo Line TOD project, we are keeping close track on lessons to be learned for similar projects around the new Talbot Avenue and Four Corners Fairmount stops.
Homeownership and Foreclosure Acquisitions
412 Talbot Ave: A Foreclosure Acquisition
In response to the recent foreclosure crisis sweeping our neighborhoods, new State and Federal programs were put in place in late 2008 to help organizations like the Codman Square NDC buy foreclosed homes, rehab them, and then re-sell (or rent) them to qualified lower-income households. We acquired our first home (a four-family at 412 Talbot) at the end of 2008. Three of the four apartments were occupied by tenants who had successfully resisted eviction through the foreclosure process; our acquisition has allowed them top stay in place. Renovation will take place during summer 2009, and we hope to sell the finished home by fall. We are actively pursuing additional acquisitions, especially at strategic locations around existing or pipeline projects.
We also plan to roll out a research and advocacy program, to better understand and influence the activities of investors in the foreclosure market. The majority of foreclosures in our area are being quickly purchased by investors, but there is no system yet in place to track how they treat these properties: Are current tenants being kept in place or evicted? What level of rehab (if any) is being carried out? Are the buildings being operated legally or, (as often in the past), illegally sub-divided and rented out beyond occupancy limits? Our research program will track investor-purchased foreclosures, and, working with City officials, ensure they are being rehabbed and operated according to the law. In addition, we will engage in community organizing, where needed to have residents living near these foreclosed properties pressure landlords into neighborhood-friendly actions.
We are also entering into a new venture with South West Boston CDC that serves Hyde Park and Roslindale, to support the agency in doing real estate development. The goal of this work is to further strengthen and stabilize SWBCDC, our sister CDC and partner in the Fairmount CDC Collaborative. Our initial focus will be to support SWBCDC in developing foreclosed properties in its service area. With over 100 foreclosures in Hyde Park and Roslindale last year, we are pleased to be working with SWBCDC to develop such properties. See more about our collaborative relationship with South West Boston CDC in the Economic Development section of this report, as well.
Over the last several years, the NDC has co-sponsored a number of community planning events for the Talbot Norfolk Triangle area, soon to be strongly impacted by the new Talbot Avenue Fairmount station. A three-session charrette in 2007 (see picture, below) came up with planning guidelines for four key development areas. In 2009, working with TNT Neighbors United and the Codman Square Neighborhood Council, we re-started the charrette process, focusing on traffic and infrastructure around the new station, green space planning, and real estate opportunities near the Station. These events have been invaluable in engaging residents, building support for transit oriented development, and setting specific guidelines for future real estate projects. Final report from the 2009 series will be available later in summer 2009.
Following the lead of recent Talbot Norfolk Triangle community planning, we are now engaged in site assembly for two key transit oriented development (TOD) parcels near the Talbot Avenue Fairmount Line stop. The first, the “Talbot Station mixed use project”, will be built on both sides of New England Avenue, between Talbot and Mallard. The first two properties are under agreement, and we are making good headway on acquiring 3 additional parcels. Our plan is to build 60 – 80 affordable housing units, along with 5,000 square feet of commercial space, plus community space, directly across from the new Talbot Fairmount Station.
The second project is the Whittier School Apartments/Syria Temple lot. CSNDC manages Whittier School Apartments located at (60 Southern Avenue), on behalf of the State, as a 14 unit State public housing development for very low income families. The budget from the State has never been adequate to run this property, nor to keep up with capital needs. The building is in serious financial difficulty. After years of effort, we have finally gained site control over an adjacent vacant lot, currently owned by the Syria Temple. With this lot, we can build 16- 20 new units, to combine with the 14 already in Whittier School, in a Low Income Housing Tax Credit project. We are now working with the State to change status of Whittier School, to allow this new development to move forward.
Four Corners Plaza
For the last several years, the NDC has worked hard to bring new vitality to City-owned parcels at the Four Corners intersection, in the heart of the business district (10 -30 Bowdoin Street, and 330 Washington Street). It has been an uphill struggle, which, to date, has not borne fruit.
The City (BRA and DND) are now in the midst of a re-planning process for this property (and other City property in Four Corners and Codman Square). They expect to issue a new RFP for 10 – 30 Bowdoin before the end of 2009. Given our long-standing commitment to Four Corners and to this site, we will certainly try to respond to this RFP with a new, feasible proposal.
Retail as part of mixed use projects: 472 Washington, Levedo, 157 Washington
In line with transit oriented development (TOD) principles, many of our new projects have a commercial component, combined with their predominant residential character. A vibrant community needs homes, shops, services, recreation, in a proper mix, and we hope to accomplish this in our projects.
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