(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)
An empty lot on the edge of Chinatown, once a vibrant section of brick rowhouses and small businesses, will soon be reborn as a mixed-income development the governor says will double the number of affordable housing units in the neighborhood.
Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Thomas Menino led a ceremony Monday morning to herald the development and announce $10 million in city and state funds and an additional $3 million in state and federal tax credits for the project. The state and federal support is part of a package of $64.5 million for this and 24 other projects across Massachusetts.
“With a variety of city, state, and federal supports alongside private financing, this project will provide a new space for residents of Chinatown to live, work, and play, doubling the number of affordable housing units in Chinatown and creating some 700 construction jobs while we’re at it,” Patrick said.
Patrick said cooperation was the key to making the new development a reality.
“We are working together, here in this commonwealth, across government lines, between the government and the private sector, with neighborhood groups and others, to invest in education, in innovation, and in infrastructure projects just like this because we believe we have to be about shaping our future,” he said. “Not just waiting for better times, but building them right now.”
The empty lot, which sits east of Hudson Street below Kneeland, was designated by the state as Parcel 24 during the Big Dig. The land had previously contained blocks of housing occupied by a diverse community of Chinese, Syrian, and Lebanese immigrants, 300 of whom were displaced when the state took the land in 1962 for construction of a ramp connecting to the Central Artery.
City Councilor Bill Linehan, State Representative Aaron Michlewitz, and State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz also attended the ceremony, standing alongside Richard A. Davey, Massachusetts secretary of transportation, and Nancy Brennan, executive director of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, which manages the parks constructed across most of the other land when where the Central Artery once stood. More than 100 Chinatown residents and others also attended.
The Parcel 24 development is a joint venture between the Asian Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit serving the local Asian-American community, and New Boston Fund Inc., a real estate investment company.
Michael Tow, president of the board of the community development corporation, recalled hearing as a young boy at his grandmother’s knee of the family’s life at 72 Hudson St. before their home and others were demolished. She told stories of a close-knit community where her sons happily played games like kick-the-can and where she could stand at her window to watch them walk to school each morning.
“However, more often than not, these stories would end with some reference to that terrible day when the families of the even-numbered side of the street got that notice posted on their doors,” Tow said. “The injustices that occurred, the gross mispricing of value to homeowners, the unimaginable short time frame to relocate, the taking advantage of a lack of representation and community voice, and the steamrolling of due process.”
Tow recalled visiting the neighborhood in his childhood, when his great-uncle and great-aunt still lived across the street at 79 Hudson St.
“What was once a thriving and lively community [was replaced with] beer cans and trash and abandoned furniture, and all kinds of waste and debris in front of a huge, graffitied, dirty, crumbling concrete wall that stood as high as the homes all across the street, that imprisoned the community and our street,” he said. “Now I’m not an expert on feng shui, but having a nasty concrete wall in front of your house can’t be good chi.”
Tow said that he was proud to be part of the community development corporation and the effort to return the east side of Hudson Street to the community, calling it a “truly transformative project.”
The development will contain 200 market-rate apartments, 50 affordable condominiums, and 95 affordable apartments, 10 of which will be set aside for families transitioning out of homelessness. It will also include 5,500 square feet of ground-floor retail, 6,000 square feet of community space, and a courtyard of about 13,600 square feet.
Menino said the project was the result of the city, state, and private developers coming together toward a common goal and that “today we have a project that we can all be proud of.”
“Right here today, we’re going to create 95 affordable units, create construction jobs,” Menino said. “That’s what we’re all about: creating more jobs in our community, creating more affordable units also.”
The $130 million Chinatown development will receive $6.5 million in state funds, $2 million in federal low-income-housing tax credits, $1 million in state tax credits, and $3.5 million in city funds. Construction on the first phase of the two-building development is scheduled to begin next spring and expected to be complete by 2014.
(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)