City Mulls Choice Between Affordable Condos or Rentals to Replace Eyesore

Landscape architect George Radner explains his design of the 3190 Washington St plan for 52 Montebello Road.

Richard Heath

Landscape architect  Michael Radner explains his design of the 3190 Washington St plan for 52 Montebello Road.

Egleston Square residents were given a choice on Wednesday for an empty city-owned six family house at 52 Montebello Road: Affordable home ownership for six first-time homebuyers by a team “who really knows ownership”; or a $1.3 million “gift” as part of the development of 3200 Washington Street for six permanently affordable rental units by another team who will “take no profit.”

John Feuerbach, senior development officer for the Department of Neighborhood Development, opened the meeting by saying “we are looking at 52 Montebello Road separately” from the 3200 Washington St. project.  There were three main criteria he said were heard at the first community meeting last December:

  1. 100 percent affordability
  2. Long-term affordability
  3. Thoughtful landscaping of the adjacent wooded slope

Feuerbach said there were two eligible applicants who would “present for 15 minutes each tonight.” He said that there would be a two-week comment period closing on July 15 after which the Department of Neighborhood Development would make its choice in one or two months.

First Pitch: Affordable Homeownership Units

Kevin Maguire of Oxbow Partners

Richard Heath

Kevin Maguire of Oxbow Partners

Kevin Maguire of Oxbow Partners, 75 Arlington St. at Park Square, was introduced. He said his team “chose this project carefully” for mixed income  homeownership. 100 percent of the six units would be marketed at or below 60 percent of Area Median Income. He defined that as someone earning $55,000 a year “who can buy and live in Egleston Square for $200,000.”

“It’s a unique opportunity to own…on a great street in a great Boston neighborhood.”

Maguire emphasized two points: One that Oxbow is “very good at physical design: and second  it is his belief that home ownership  is the key component for a diverse community.”

He said his team collaborated with Mitchell Properties in the development of 700 Harrison Ave. near Boston Medical Center, a mixed income condominium building that included units based at 60 percent of AMI.

Maguire went on to add “the real meaning is…what is this development going to be like in year 20?.. Did it contribute to make the neighborhood stronger?”

He said this will be accomplished in two ways.

“You find the best talent,” he said. “The star of this project is Kate Kennen” landscape architect of Offshoots  in Charlestown. He said “she is an up-and-coming landscape person” who has designed the landscaping for the Commons at Forest Hills Station.

52 Montebello Road  from Oxbow  Partners.

Oxbow Partners.

52 Montebello Road from Oxbow Partners.

Kennen’s specialty is in very site specific design of low maintenance, high quality, carefully selected plant material in the layout out and grading. The condo fees at 52 Montebello Road, said Maguire, will be kept lower by her design of “low impact sustainable landscape”  of the adjoining slope as well as the building grounds.

The second way Oxbow will make the neighborhood stronger, Maguire said, is to create   “a functional owners association” which will include first-time homebuyer classes, training and education during the first year.

“The key to ownership is getting the condo association right” by educating people, Maguire said. He admitted, however, that Oxbow had a limited budget to support this association.  He pointed to  area non-profits who could “play a role in that.”

Maguire summed up his 15 minutes by saying “We bring experience, vision and opportunity. If affordable homeownership  is what this community wants we can do a good job.”

Second Pitch: Affordable Rentals

The 3190 Washington  LLCteam. )(L - R) Justin Iantosca, president, Attorney Joseph Hanley and Dan Mangiacotti

The 3190 Washington LLC team.  (L – R) Justin Iantosca, president, Attorney Joseph Hanley and Dan Mangiacotti.

Attorney Joseph Hanley represented the development team of 3190 Washington St LLC , Jason Iantosca, president, and Dave Mangiacotti.

Hanley said 52 Montebello Road “was brought to our attention early on as a problem property” when  the Iantosca /Mangacotti team was preparing their plans to develop 3200 Washington Street. “We were asked to take a look at it”  in light of the “overwhelming need for and lack of affordable housing, particularly rental.”

He said that 3190 Washington LLC intended to invest $1.2 million in”private resources” to address this need.  He said 3190 Washington has brought in JPNDC and Urban Edge as partners with the affordable rental component. He said 3190 Washington will remake and improve 52 Montebello Road and transfer it to the non-profits for management.

Hanley said this is an “amazing opportunity to take the great bones of this building and make it over into new building.”

The proposal from the 3190 Washington St. LLC developers incorporates the landscaping of 52 Montebello Road with the plan of 3200 Washington St

3190 Washington LL>

The proposal from the 3190 Washington St. LLC developers incorporates the landscaping of 52 Montebello Road with the plan of 3200 Washington St.

“The landscape architect is very important,” said Hanley, to both the house and the urban wild next to it.  He introduced Michael Radner of Radner Design, Framingham, to explain his ideas for the site.  Radner specializes in “custom residential landscape design” and he said his plans will better  integrate the rocky wooded slope with 3200 Washington Str. He pointed out on the screen his sustainable, low-maintenance design and plantings which would be set behind and above a new wall that would connect 52 Montebello with the 3200 Washington development.

Despite DND’s stipulation, 3190 Washington St. LLC, — in contrast to Oxbow — is not looking at 52 Montebello Road as a a separate project;  rather, in the words of Hanley, 3200 Washington St. will own, develop, maintain and better integrate the landscape at 52 Montebello Road with the larger Washington Street development.

Hanley said “we are not looking at subsidies for this project.”

Leslie Bos Real Estate Director JPNDC

Richard Heath

Leslie Bos Real Estate Director JPNDC

He introduced Leslie Bos, real estate director for the JP Neighborhood Development Corp., who carefully explained the role her agency would fill. The JPNDC, she said, is proposing to acquire “a very modest mortgage” that will enable it to keep rents at $1,100 per month  – or 60 percent AMI – for a one-bedroom apartment.

“This is the minimum rent that we need to collect,” she said, “in order to maintain apartments in a high-quality, decent and safe manner.”

She said the JPNDC will take out a “very nominal mortgage of $150,000 to $175,000 ”  in order to keep the rents at the 60 percent AMI level.

Hanley said “our investment is entirely private. We are not looking for any subsidies for this. We are funding the entire cost, less the mortgage.”

He said the total development cost is $1.2 million and that the developers have a bank commitment for that amount.

That is in addition to a $170,00 mortgage to  support affordable rents. That $1.3 million is a “gift,” a community benefit as part of the development of 3200 Washington Street.

Iantosca added, “We do not get it back.”

Community Reactions

The audience at the DND hearing on 52 Montebello Rd.

Richard Heath

A full house audience at the DND hearing on 52 Montebello Rd.

In a very rare turn for community meetings regarding housing development, the public questions  concerned financing, costs and rents. This was led in large part by Affordable Housing Egleston –  six members were present-  that has honed its message since April.

“Your housing experience,”  said one AHE member  to Oxbow’s Kevin Maguire, “is in Wayland and Nantucket. This is Egleston Square. How do your costs reflect our community?”

Maguire replied that those two communities  participate in the Community Preservation Act Program  that provides more resources for affordable housing.  He said that that the subsidy structure is “very set for rental units. There are 18 sources for rental properties the largest of which is the tax credit.” Oxbow is applying for $607,000 in  City of Boston Home funds to keep its home ownership cost down.  The total development cost is $1.8 million.

Addressing the 3190 LLC team, Sara Horsely said “we have to make it deeply affordable for renters. Why can’t the city help lower those costs?”

Feuerbach said that DND  has funds in its neighborhood housing trust. He also added that the teams have offered to buy the property for “$1 to $100”. [The pro forma submitted by 3190 LLC states it would pay $1. The Oxbow  proposal stated it would pay $200 for land and buildings.]

“What subsidies are available?”asked AHE’s George Lee. “How can JPNDC and Urban Edge keep those rents at 30 percent AMI?”

Bos said that without other subsidies the JPND mortgage still would keep the rents at about $1,000 per unit per year for a  one-bedroom. That is in keeping at the 60 percent AMI limit plus operating costs.

Alvin Shiggs reminded everyone that the “Boston median income is closer to the income levels in Eglston Square.”  There is a $10,000 difference between Boston area media income and City of Boston income.  He wanted to see “significant rental subsidies attached to those rents.”

In an apparent rift between city agencies, Feuerbach of DND expressed wonder that the developers of 3200 Washington St. are going through a Boston Redevelopment Authority process along a “unique path of using city-owned land to increase the affordable requirements” on 3200 Washington St. development. Those requirements have already been met through the BRA Article 80 process.

“You have fulfilled your article 80 basic requirements?” Feuerbah asked.

“Yes,” said Hanley.

He added what he has stated in previous public meetings that 3200 Washington St is using 52 Montebello Rd to increase its affordable housing commitment overall.

Shiggs said he was “intrigued by affordable homeownership.”  He said he “liked the fact that Oxbow is a stand-alone  project. There is nothing speculative about it.” Shiggs said he also found “more creativity in the design.”

Affordable Housing Egleston. George Lee far right.

Richard Heath

Affordable Housing Egleston. George Lee far right.

But the proverbial elephant in the room was 32oo Washington St. This contradiction rippled through the perplexed neighbors at the meeting. Some sought guidance from their elected officials; representatives of three were present.

What did City Councilor O’Malley, who represents JP, think about this? Hannah Smith, representing the councilor, said she would take the opinions and concerns back to him. She could not comment on 3200Washington St.

What did Senator Sonia Chang Díaz think about this? Jessie Zimmerer,  representing the senator, urged everyone to “put your comments in writing. The senator wants to hear from you.”

“Will she reply to us?”asked Lee.

The community wanted more time.  Shiggs spoke for many when he asked “Can we have an additional meeting?”

“We will consider it” replied Feuerbach.

How to Comment

Residents who want to chime in about which proposal they favor are asked to send a letter to:

Ryan Lundergan

Department of Neighborhood Development

26 Court St., 8th Floor

Boston, MA 02108

or email ryan.lundergan@boston.gov.

The deadline to comment is July 15.