A new look for Jackson Square
Developers shaping plan for residential, retail area
By Brian R. Ballou, Globe Staff | February 20, 2007
It is prime real estate in Boston and developers have long clamored to get their hands on it, but the 9.5 acres scattered near the intersection of Columbus Avenue and Centre Street in Roxbury and Jamaica Plain has remained a blank slate for almost 30 years.
Nearby is the Academy Homes housing development, which has battled crime. The Jackson Square T station, where some residents fear to tread after dark, is across the street. Then, there is the Bromley-Heath housing project , a red-brick behemoth that has struggled with gang activity. A 13-year-old boy was shot last month as he walked on Horan Way, a street within the development. The boy, who had left the Jackson Square T station moments earlier, ran back to the station but collapsed on a basketball court nearby.
City leaders, community activists, and business owners are working hard to change the image of Jackson Square. The city is fine-tuning a $250 million plan for 400 housing units, 60,000 square feet of retail space, and a youth and family center on the land. Groundbreaking is expected in the summer of 2008, said Tom Miller , the director of economic development for the Boston Redevelopment Authority.
"Jackson Square is a perfect example of an area that has seen better days," Miller said. "For some reason, the location never took off. But we think this is going to be incredible, and we're hoping it will lead to other construction projects in adjacent properties. We think this will serve as a catalyst for the area."
A busy strip mall containing a supermarket and a concentration of restaurants, music stores, and clothing boutiques dot the lower end of Centre Street, near Columbus Avenue. But closer to the intersection are the lots, land that was cleared about three decades ago to make way for a planned extension of Interstate 95. A Department of Public Works salt shed and a Department of Youth Services facility sit on a section of the property.
Two groups vied to develop the coveted land, but the city decided last November that both groups should work together on the project. The team now includes the Hyde Square Task Force, the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corp., Urban Edge, Mitchell Properties, and Gravestar Inc.
Jesus Gerena, director of Community Development and Organizing for the Hyde Square Task Force, said the development would serve as a bridge between Roxbury and Jamaica Plain, separated by Columbus Avenue. "This is an area that has been targeted because the city understands the need for more youth facilities and positive opportunities."
Many residents and business owners have welcomed the project in community meetings. "More apartments in the area mean more people to come to my store," said Luis Gonzales , owner of Cristal Fruit , at the corner of Centre and Wise streets.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino referred to the undeveloped land as a dead spot in the community, and said, "If you do it properly, with the plans I've seen, it will be great for the area." He said the area has been stigmatized by "one or two high-profile crimes."
The Jan. 12 shooting of 13-year-old Luis Gerena, no relation to the task force official, sent shock waves through the neighborhood and reminded many longtime residents and business owners of a near-fatal attack that occurred almost three years ago at the T station -- the stabbing of a 14-year-old girl.
Jesus Gerena said the dozens of teenagers enrolled in the task force's various antiviolence programs were stunned by the homicide. "They were definitely taken aback by that murder. Any time you have violence in the area, it heightens the fear among the kids, because they have to walk through Jackson Square every day . There's a general sense that the violence is all around them."
Juan Carlos, 17, of Dorchester, who passes through the T station on weekdays on his way to school and work, said he heard about the fatal shooting. "It's kind of crazy, thinking that something like that happened near here. I know a lot of my friends are scared to walk around here at night because of that."
Last fall, Boston police and the FBI conducted a drug sweep through Bromley-Heath, charging 23 men with dealing cocaine in or near the complex, including an 18-year-old who was shot by police during the sweep. About half of those arrested were alleged associates of the Heath Street Gang, whose war with the rival H-Bloc gang had led to at least 20 shootings from January 2005 to October 2006, the FBI said.
But the T station has experienced a decline in crime, according to statistics from the MBTA Police. Last year, there were 11 reported incidents of violence at the station, the lowest amount since 2000. The number of incidents peaked in 2003 , with 28 .
Police Lieutenant Michael Shea , commander of the district including the Jackson Square station, said it is constantly manned by at least two officers. "We have a lot of visibility at the station, guys who know the people who come through here by first name." He attributed the decline in crime to a renewed focus by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority several years ago to conduct community-style policing rather than confine their efforts to the station alone. Shea said he often meets with administrators at Bromley-Heath, the Hyde Square Task Force, and other local groups.
Aralis Santana , 16, a student at Prospect Hill Academy in Cambridge , said recently that she goes through the station at least once a day. "Nothing has happened to me in three years, but I'm never by myself at night because anything can happen."
You can see the PNF the development team submitted to the BRA here:pharmerdave said:They are finally filling in the wastelands around Jackson Square. 429 units of housing by 2013.
Banker & Tradesman said:Project in Jackson Square Waiting Until Next Season
July 30, 2007
By Aglaia Pikounis,
Boston Redevelopment Authority Expected to Vote On Mixed-Use Development?s First Phase by Fall
The first phase of a plan to transform the neighborhood surrounding Boston?s Jackson Square MBTA station into a mixed-use project could be approved as early as this fall.
The development, which would include more than 400 new homes in addition to retail and office space, is just one urban project that will help community-based groups across Massachusetts reach a goal of building thousands of new affordable homes over the next four years.
The Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations recently unveiled a four-year campaign to build or preserve 6,000 homes and 9,000 jobs, and attract $1 billion in private and public investment to revitalize Bay State communities.
MACDC President Joseph Kriesberg said the organization is relying heavily on several larger-scale projects in Boston, including the Jackson Square redevelopment, to reach its goals.
?Any serious delays in that project that could come up with either permitting or environmental [issues] ? that alone could probably affect our ability to achieve this goal,? he said.
Another challenge will be the availability of state and federal funding, as well as construction and land costs. Many of the projects driven by CDCs depend on the state?s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, federal and state tax credits, and a host of other state money.
MACDC fell short of its previous plan to build or preserve 5,700 units from 2003 to 2006. The organization preserved or built 5,186 units during those years. A spike in construction and land costs and a flattening in state funding for housing made it difficult for the organization to meet its original housing goal, according to Kriesberg.
?Housing subsidies didn?t go as far as they used to,? he said.
CDC leaders, however, are hopeful that more state and federal resources will flow over the next few years. Gov. Deval Patrick already has committed $40 million in new money for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and has indicated that he is interested in preserving existing units for low- and moderate-income households.
?One change that we all have seen is that the hopefully state and federal resources will at least keep up with housing costs, if not exceed them,? Kriesberg said.
The Jackson Square project is being developed by a team that includes two CDCs, Urban Edge and the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corp.
The latest design calls for a mix of 438 rental units and condominiums, 291 of which will be affordable; 60,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space; a youth and family center; and an ice rink and recreational facility. The project will encompass 11 acres in Jamaica Plain.
A vote on the first phase by the Boston Redevelopment Authority is expected by September or October, according to Mossik Hacobian, executive director of Urban Edge, which serves Jamaica Plain and Roxbury.
The first phase includes a 103-unit mixed-income rental development with ground-floor retail on a triangular piece of land next to the MBTA station, as well as a 40-unit condo complex on the corner of Columbus Avenue and Ritchie Street. A 30,000-square-foot youth and family center also is planned. Construction of the housing units is expected by mid-2008.
If all goes as planned, the first phase should be finished by 2009, according to Hacobian, and more than 210 units will be completed by 2010.
?A Lot of Effort?
Hacobian said he is optimistic that the project will move forward with permitting given that the development team has spent over a year going through a community review process and several city reviews.
?Both [Jackson Square] partners and investors and lenders and the city have put a lot of effort and resources in this,? he said. ?The schedule, I suppose, is always subject to change depending on market conditions and funding ? we try to lay out a schedule that takes that into consideration.?
Besides Jackson Square, another project that will help MACDC get to its goal is a plan to build a mix of over 320 condos and rental units in Chinatown, according to Kriesberg.
The Asian Community Development Corp. and New Boston Fund are behind the plan to convert the Chinatown property along Kneeland Street known as Parcel 24.
The plan calls for 70 units for low-income tenants. The goal is for half of the units to be affordable, according to Jeremy Liu, executive director of the Asian CDC.
Liu said the project will double the homeownership rate in Chinatown.
The project hasn?t begun the permitting process yet, but Liu said he anticipates construction to begin at the end of next year or beginning of 2009 with a 24- to 30-month construction period.
Parcel 24 could face a roadblock because of a Supreme Judicial Court decision earlier this year regarding development in filled tidelands and Chapter 91, a law designed to protect the public?s interest in waterways, which regulates activities in inland and coastal areas. In that decision, the court ruled that environmental regulators shouldn?t have exempted filled, landlocked tidelands from Chapter 91.
Some legal analysts argue that the ruling could jeopardize future development in coastal areas of the state, including projects proposed along or near Boston?s waterfront.
But Liu said that based on proposals coming from the Legislature and the Patrick administration to deal with the SJC decision, he doesn?t feel that the Chinatown project will be affected.
?We don?t think at this point it?s going to be an issue,? he said.
New Boston Fund is teaming with another CDC, Lena Park Community Development Corp., to redevelop the former Boston State Hospital site into a 42-acre village with townhouses and apartments. The project, known as Olmsted Green, broke ground last year. It will feature 287 townhouse-style condos, 153 rentals for low-income households and an 84-unit apartment building for low-income seniors.
Kriesberg said he anticipates more partnerships between nonprofit groups and for-profit developers to help CDCs develop larger-scale projects such as Olmsted Green.
And, he added, CDCs will continue the trend of producing mixed-income housing. ?There aren?t enough subsidies to do 100 percent affordable projects,? he said.