Roxbury Infill and Small Developments


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Jan 12, 2007
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Thought I'd start a thread for stray Roxbury developments without a devoted topic (please move this if such a thing already exists). First off is this traditionalist low income housing complex used as an example of a public interest architecture firm's work, by Robert Campbell:

?Building justice?
Creating low-income housing is a higher calling for Boston firm


Dudley Village in Roxbury, 50 apartments in five buildings, is the latest achievement of the Boston firm The Narrow Gate. (Peter Vanderwarker)

Good works are the goal of a small Boston firm that calls itself The Narrow Gate.

The name comes from the Gospel of St. Matthew, where Jesus says (in the New English Bible translation), ?Enter by the narrow gate. The gate is wide that leads to perdition, there is plenty of room on the road, and many go that way; but the gate that leads to life is small and the road is narrow, and those who find it are few.??

Narrow Gate architects design only for low-income people. Their latest and biggest achievement is Dudley Village, a cluster of 50 new apartments in five low-rise buildings, scattered along both sides of three blocks of Dudley Street in Roxbury.

Dudley Village is an example of what can be achieved when enough time, talent, and passion are applied to a tight budget and difficult site. Nothing about this architecture says ?affordable.?? It isn?t at the cutting edge of design, but it is handsome background architecture.

The buildings seen from the street, dominated by red brick, look like good apartments anywhere. They feature Boston-style stoops, planting beds, canopies, and bay windows. Indoors, they?re sunny and well planned. There are spectacular views from upper floors. Many apartments are duplexes. There?s a big space for future retail shops. There?s a community and computer room, where sunny colors and a couple of twists in the floor plan keep things from feeling institutional.

There are a few details where you wish more money could have been spent. Galvanized metal fences and railings will rust. There are as yet no public computers in the community room. But the flaws are surprisingly few.

While Dudley Village flourishes, though, The Narrow Gate is on kind of a shoestring. The architects find it difficult, or maybe impossible, to get adequate fees for the huge commitment of time it takes to create low-cost housing (five years, in the case of Dudley Village). Yet the Gate has survived for 22 years pursuing nothing but the goal defined by its mission statement: ?To focus primarily on building justice by creating pleasing environments for those in need.??

Bob Wegener and Kitty Ryan founded the firm in 1987. There?s now a third partner, Neal Mongold. All three got their architecture degrees at the University of Notre Dame. All three are Roman Catholics. All have backgrounds as volunteers at homeless shelters, with peace groups, and in other social justice causes. The firm?s first office was above a soup kitchen in the South End. ?We were fed there,?? says Ryan.

There are five employees besides the partners. All eight are now working a three-day, 18-hour week. A government program supplies partial wages for the hours off. Still, they are no worse off than lots of other architecture firms in the current recession. The important point is that the Gate has survived, proving it?s possible to make a living while ignoring wealthy clients and developers. They are not alone, either; there are a handful of small firms in Boston who, like the Gate, specialize in affordable housing.

It?s become almost a clich?, in recent writing about architecture, to say that we?ve come to the end of an age of egotism. That was an era when so-called ?starchitects?? and their clients became famous for creating show-off monuments like the new Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world. But young architects and architecture students today, we?re told, are more interested in architecture as a service to humanity and to the planet. Indeed they are. But that?s a service The Narrow Gate has been performing for 22 years.

The Gate currently occupies a spacious ground-floor loft in the Fort Point Channel area. But the architects expect to be expelled soon, when they will become victims of the gentrification of the neighborhood. That?s an irony, because one of the Gate?s goals is to fight gentrification by providing affordable housing.

A development like Dudley Village requires a lot of time and a mastery of political and economic skills, not only architectural expertise. A bronze plaque at the entrance to the community room credits 16 sources of financing. Some are public agencies and others are private investors looking for a tax write-off. Pasting together such a complex operation takes time and skill.

There was active neighborhood review, too, by the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative and other groups. ?We try to balance contemporary design with neighborhood review,?? says Ryan. ?Neighborhoods tend to be very traditional.??

The client for Dudley Village was the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation. The Narrow Gate does most of its work for such community development corporations. By now the list of projects is impressive. The architects figure they have created at least 200 apartment units. In the early years, they mostly performed gut rehabs on old buildings, often three-deckers. Their first new one opened in 2003. The Gate has now worked in at least a dozen different neighborhoods in the Boston metro area, reaching as far afield as Framingham, Lynn, and Brockton.

Like all good architecture today, the Gate?s projects are green. Dudley has dual flush toilets, rooftop solar panels, and wastewater treatment. The bricks came from a local source. In another green move, the Gate is in the early stages of planning a ?New Urban Farm?? in Mattapan, where healthy food will be grown and sold, and training provided in urban agriculture.

?They call us ?the God firm,? ?? says Ryan. She laughs, but admits there?s a tiny cross in the firm?s logo.

Wegener puts the thought less religiously. ?We are trying to find out how to practice architecture meaningfully,?? he says.

Robert Campbell, the Globe?s architecture critic, can be reached at
should be ground floor retail imo.

Otherwise, the design is actually pretty decent for its intended clientele.
The buildings seen from the street, dominated by red brick, look like good apartments anywhere. They feature Boston-style stoops, planting beds, canopies, and bay windows. Indoors, they?re sunny and well planned. There are spectacular views from upper floors. Many apartments are duplexes. There?s a big space for future retail shops. There?s a community and computer room, where sunny colors and a couple of twists in the floor plan keep things from feeling institutional.

Work on $16M Dudley Square elderly housing project begins

By Matt Rocheleau, Town Correspondent

Construction on a $16-million, seven-story elderly housing building began Wednesday in a vacant lot across from the Dudley Square Silver Line Station.

The 49,000 square-foot rental development on Washington Street will provide 24-hour care and service programs in 57 one-bedroom units for low-income seniors, age 62 and up, according to a release. Twenty-one units will be made available to low-income elders and 12 will be set aside for homeless seniors.

Members of project organizers and nonprofit Central Boston Elder Services were joined by U.S. Sen. John Kerry, Congressman Michael Capuano, state representatives, Mayor Thomas Menino, and other local officials for a groundbreaking ceremony at the development?s site Wednesday morning.

?This facility will provide good housing for our most vulnerable seniors and [213] jobs for construction workers who need a paycheck,? said Kerry in the release.

The building will also feature common areas, laundry facilities a community room 32 parking spaces outside, and ?The housing development?s location, in Dudley Square, will provide residents with access to retail outlets, public transportation, and services such as medical facilities, libraries, and banks,? the release said.

?Dudley Square is an important hub in our city and its ongoing revitalization is a priority in moving our city forward,? said Menino in the release. ?The Dudley Square Elderly Housing Development will not only provide stable homes and essential support services for many of Boston?s elderly residents, but it is an important project that contributes to the economic development and growth of the neighborhood.?

The 130-member staff of Central Boston Elder Services serves over 6,200 elders and caregivers annually in Mission Hill, Allston, Brighton, Roxbury, Back Bay, South End, North Dorchester, North Jamaica Plain, and Fenway, the release said.

?This project is a remarkable accomplishment for the agency and continues our goal of assisting in the redevelopment of the Roxbury community,? said Catherine Hardaway, executive director of the 36-year-old nonprofit.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at
Roxbury developer eyes vacant lots near Dudley Square


(Courtesy Madison Park Development Corporation)

A rendering of the proposal for the five-story mixed-use building at 205-211 Dudley St.

By Matt Rocheleau, Town Correspondent

A Roxbury-based non-profit developer is proposing a five-story residential building with a first floor used as commercial/retail space and a separate four-story residential building on two properties near Dudley Square that have been vacant for decades.

The combined cost of the two projects on Dudley Street is estimated at $17 million, which would include city, state, and federal tax credits for offering affordable housing, said Travis Lee, project manager at Madison Park Development Corporation.

Construction is projected to take about one year, and work could start as early as fall 2011, though any setback in the approval process could push the start of construction into 2012, he said. ?We picked these sites because they?re important to the urban fabric,? Lee said. ?It?s a very critical location on the fringe of Dudley Square ? that?s been vacant for decades,? and these projects would be part of the area?s ongoing revitalization efforts.

The 40,000 square-foot, five-story location at 205-211 Dudley St. ? on a vacant lot between Greenville Street and Pevear Place ? is planned to house 31 residential units above 3,000 square-feet of commercial and retail space on the first floor.

Lee said he does not expect to see businesses interested in leasing the first-floor space until construction begins, but the development company is planning to build one section of the floor so that it?s ?restaurant-ready.?

The other vacant lot, 223-229A Dudley St., is next to an existing four-story brick building between Greenville Street and Bard Avenue, he said. Plans there call for a 24,000 square-foot, four-story, 12-unit residential building.

The combined 43 units would be a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom spaces. Nine of the units would be made affordable for families making at or below 30 percent of the area?s median income, while the other 34 would be made affordable to families making at or below 60 percent of the area?s median income, Lee said.

Behind each property would be space for parking and outdoor recreation use.

The projects will go before the city appeals board for a hearing in two weeks and is currently under review for state funding.

Planning for the buildings began about a year and a half ago after the development company was awarded the two lots along with three others by the city?s housing authority in 2006, Lee said.

The project at one of the other three lots was recently completed. Located at the corner of Eustis and Adams streets, the Twenty at Luma development is currently filling the 20 affordable single family homes for first-time buyers that were completed in late July.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at

Check out the Site Plans
Also in Roxbury...

By Matt Rocheleau, Town Correspondent

New homeowners are moving into the final phase of a major, 15-year-long city redevelopment project that has breathed new life to an area of Roxbury once plagued by abandoned and aging homes, vacant lots and gang violence.

The multi-stage project coordinated by the city housing authority was funded through $120-million in public and private investment, including a $30-million federal HOPE VI grant. The undertaking which began in the mid-1990s has rebuilt 500-plus rental and owner housing units on three sites in the old Orchard Park public housing development known presently as Orchard Gardens, Orchard Commons and Twenty at Luma, city housing officials said.

Maria Ortiz, who works at a Mission Hill hospital, and her 14-year-old son Edwin, former residents of a South Boston public housing development, were the first family to close on their new home and move into Twenty at Luma, the final phase of the massive redevelopment effort. This development phase consists of wood-frame townhouses and duplexes reflective of the neighborhood?s traditional architectural style with bay windows, porches and pitched roofs.

?I?m very excited about this,? said Maria Ortiz in a city press release after she was welcomed by Mayor Thomas Menino Saturday. ?It?s a great opportunity for myself and my son.?

All of the development?s five two-bedroom and 15 three-bedroom units have their own yards and off-street parking spaces, and are equipped with energy-saving features, including 16 units with solar panels, the release said.

The Ortiz? are one of seven families that benefitted from a special loan program and have already moved into a home in the Twenty at Luma development, according to officials, while the 13 other new homeowners are due to be moving in the coming weeks.

Of the development?s 20 new homeowners, the city said 17 are expected to take part in the housing authority?s Loan-to-Purchaser program, which is currently providing $1.12-million in subordinate mortgage loans to 56 low-income families, who receive up to $20,000 each.

That program, coupled with the housing development?s affordable opportunity, is giving some former public housing and low-income Boston residents a boost into homeownership.

?These programs are an excellent opportunity to realize people?s dreams of owning their own home,? said Menino in the release. ?I?m honored to be able to welcome these families into the neighborhood and into a new beginning.?

To qualify for the Loan-to-Purchaser program, families must be below 80 percent of area?s median income, which is $64,400 for a family of four, according to the release Recipients must also complete a first-time homebuyer certification course and receive long-term homebuyer counseling from the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing, Inc. (NOAH) which is manages the program.

Among the 106 families that applied to the Twenty at Luma development, a lottery process was used to choose which would be selected to move into the 20 available homes, which cost $135,000 for a two-bedroom and $150,000 for a three-bedroom, officials said.

?This shows that the American dream of home ownership is achievable for low-income families,? William McGonagle, the city housing authority?s administrator said in the release. ?Part of our mission is to help families become self-sufficient and this is a great example of the BHA doing just that.?

Twenty at Luma is a partnership between Madison Park Development Corporation and the city housing authroity. The development is located on Dudley, Adams and Eustis streets in Dudley Square near Orchard Gardens.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at
Lets find the odd thing out

elderly housing

across from the Dudley Square Silver Line Station.

Twenty-one units to low-income elders

12 for homeless seniors.

will provide good housing for our most vulnerable seniors

32 parking spaces outside,

provide residents with access to public transportation and services such as medical facilities, libraries, and banks

Damiere Jackson, 15, and three of his friends now have the space and tools they need to continue making music as a band.

By Matt Rocheleau, Town Correspondent

Eighteen-year-old Brian Means has been going to his local Yawkey Boys and Girls Club since he was five.

?This is my place,? he said. ?It?s like a second home for me.?

But when he and three friends recently formed a rock band, the teenagers did not have adequate space or instruments through the Roxbury youth club?s small music program, or elsewhere, to carry out their melodious ambitions ? until now.

The Yawkey Club unveiled a 1,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art music clubhouse Wednesday evening that club and partnering officials expect will serve 100 youth weekly ? an enormous upgrade from the youth club?s former music offering housed in a space described as a ?large closet.?

?Now that we have this, it tops it all off,? Means said. ?I?m definitely excited.?

?We can make our first album here now,? added 13-year-old Ifunamya ?Maia? Obi, a fellow singer with Means in the band, Jinx, that also includes guitarist Damiere Jackson and drummer James Green, both 15.

The sound-proof facility that comprises its own staff, new instruments, computers, a recording studio, Rock Band video game and practice rooms, is the eighth and largest member of ?a family of music clubhouses? that has opened in underserved Boston and surrounding communities over the past seven years.

The Music and Youth Initiative founded by Gary and Joan Eichhorn has been spearheading the clubhouse-building effort.

?It?s becoming increasingly difficult for schools to provide music programming ? particularly for middle and high schools,? Gary Eichhorn said prior to Wednesday?s ribbon-cutting and music performances ?Our mission is to try and bring music to any kids we can, especially for kids who could not have access otherwise.?

(Courtesy Calin Peters)
Marylin, 14, sings "Don't Know Why" by Norah Jones.Like each of the seven existing music facilities, the Roxbury Music Clubhouse and its $75,000-a-year budget became a reality because of numerous corporate sponsors and two main partnering institutions ? one with musical expertise, in this case Berklee College of Music, and the other is a youth organization, in this case Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston.

Berklee has now partnered with all six of the clubhouses in the city ? the Yawkey Club, two in Dorchester, and one in Jamaica Plain, in Mission Hill and in Allston. The two clubhouses outside of Boston are in Lawrence and Everett.

Jeremy Butler, who graduated from the college in 2009, will be the facility?s music director and Berklee students will work as the program's faculty members teaching ensembles along with private and group lessons. Alumni, faculty, and staff volunteers from the school will also present workshops.

The college also gave access to its real-time, web-based PULSE music curriculum, and youth club members can choose to join Berklee City Music, which offers after-school instruction, mentoring, and scholarship opportunities to underserved youth at no cost.

"Dudley Square is rich in history, talent, and culture, yet it has lacked accessible music education programming for local youth," said Jim McCoy, the college's director of community affairs and campus engagement. "Berklee wants to offer neighborhood-based music education programs free of charge?not just music lessons, but a course to take music as far as the students want."

And much of the instruction will be done through curriculum authored by Berklee alum David Bickel, a former music director at the first music clubhouse in Lawrence who is now the Music and Youth Initiative?s program manager.

Bickel equated the program to community youth soccer leagues in that ?everyone gets to play,? it is designed for musicians of all talent levels and ?it?s not just practice, you also get to play in the game as a team,? he said.

The ability for students to quickly learn the skills necessary to play alongside other musicians is the program?s most unique aspect ? the curriculum is synced so that all of the students in the program learn the same concepts, lessons, songs, etc. even if they are learning different instruments.

That team-based model has had youth playing together in a band in as little as four weeks after the program began, Bickel said.

?This is not something you have to sell to kids,? said Eichhorn, a high-tech industry veteran and amateur jazz guitarist. ?The kids are learning the songs they want to learn really fast and in bands, and that?s the best way to keep kids interested.?

He said in the process of finding a new hobby, passion or potential future career, the music clubhouses are a place for students to build important life skills ? such as good study habits, teamwork, and creativity, which help build confidence.

The other music clubhouses average about 200 visits each week, including 70 to 80 students enrolled in formal lessons, Eichhorn said. Two alumni of the music clubhouses have gone on to Berklee on full scholarships.

?Our goal is for every child to go to college and now they have a path through to Berklee,? said Yawkey Club Executive Director Andrea Swain.

The second-floor clubhouse space at the Roxbury youth club was formerly planned as a fitness center; the fitness room instead replaced a conference room. But, Swain said the club was unable to afford to contract out the necessary work to rebuild that space for its new musical purpose.

It would not have happened if it weren?t for the club?s maintenance worker, Anderson Mottley, who put in extra hours since July to complete the job.

?It shows the tenacity of our staff,? she said.

?This is one of the gems from out 100th anniversary year that will leave our legacy,? Swain added.

She said she hopes the new room will attract teens who do not go to the youth club because they feel it?s too young for them, and not cool.

?The music clubhouse is the ultimate cool for older youth members and teens,? she said.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at
The homeless seniors were formerly living in their cars which will need to be parked in the lot. The remaining twenty one 'low-income' seniors somehow afford cars and of course would have some family visitors (the ungrateful bastard kids too cheap to pay for their elders to have housing, so taxpayers have to pick up the tab), visiting nurses, The Ride, etc. Not to mention we all know that the MBTA inspectors will have a field day illegally parking in the lot as state officials.

Snark aside, I'm glad to see vacant lots responsibly developed. Whereas I'm normally against subsidized housing, this is for the elderly which obviously can't work anymore and dependent on circumstances have no family or means of having savings to have supported their retirement, so I'm not bothered by the state subsidy.
thats what I thought^ ur close it's just another bank!
This is what things will look like in the year 1999.
The building in the poster looks way better than what's built...are they supposed to have been the same building?