Uphams Corner car park is considering a mix of housing and retail
Ironically, the biggest issue raised in the proposed Hamlet Street municipal parking lot development at Uphams Corner was, yes, parking.
The Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation and Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) development team submitted the only proposal for the city-owned property, unveiling a plan at a June 1 meeting that would include 69 housing units ( 9 homeownership opportunities), a contingent of affordable retail space, and an indoor/outdoor market hall for budding catering and service businesses.
The existing 88-space surface car park houses several area businesses and adjoins a dense residential area behind it. It needs to be replaced in development. Although the proposal contained many stylish amenities popular these days, such as the food hall, the general feeling from residents was that it was a bit overwhelming when combined with several other developments currently on the drawing board for Uphams Corner.
“I really think we need to appreciate the need for affordable housing, but also reduce that,” Joan Tighe said, noting the complementary projects near Columbia Crossing and Fox Hall. “It’s too much, and I feel like I’m crashing into a space where there’s very little room for manoeuvre. Even with a garage, it will not meet the need for parking.
Hamlet Street added Fernanda Pires: “I really want to express my concern about the development and its size. I love housing and home development, and that’s huge for me. I also want you all to consider how cumbersome this is and what it will do for residents who live on the street in terms of traffic flow. »
Resident Dayshon Brandao suggested the city consider building a parking lot for The Strand and the neighborhood on one of its remaining vacant properties.
The Dorchester Bay/POAH proposal was a first step in the process of potential redevelopment of the lot as part of the Uphams Corner Arts and Innovation District planning effort. Already, Dorchester Bay and POAH have partnered on the former Dorchester Bank project, dubbed Columbia Crossing, and Hamlet Street would be their second collaboration in the area.
The Hamlet proposal includes four commercial incubator spaces ranging from 300 to 325 square feet. Four community retail spaces ranging from 673 to 1,140 square feet for more established businesses; a trading floor for community events/functions; 60 rental units (including 12 living-working spaces for artists); 9 condominium units and the replacement of 88 public parking spaces. Commercial retail spaces commit to being offered at 50% of market rents. The plan also includes a pocket park and rooftop green space for residents of the building.
Affordable residential rental units would include approximately 20% for very low income people (30% of the AMI), with the remaining units being affordable at 80% of the AMI.
“We are very excited about this proposal,” said Cory Mian of POAH. “We would also like to highlight the fact that this area has undergone a ton of planning… We are really trying to do something that complements and supports the rest of the Uphams arts and innovation district Corner.”
Hansey Better Barraza, the architect of the project, added: “We view the development of Hamlet Street as part of a larger ecosystem.”
However, so did the residents, and it made them feel a bit overwhelmed by the sheer volume of housing units in the plan.
“I think it was meant to be more dedicated to commercial space with less housing and more incubator space,” said Allida Warn, who works at the nearby Conservatory Lab Charter School. “I don’t know if the RFP reflected that.”
Beth O’Donnell of Dorchester Bay pointed out that the nonprofit recently completed work on the Indigo block, which includes several commercial spaces that are currently vacant.
The Mayor’s Office of Housing (MOH), formerly the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND), issued a request for proposals (RFP) for Hamlet Street last fall as part of a larger package. While other tenders have failed due to lack of interest, Hamlet Street has done so, with the idea of supporting existing parking and creating an affordable retail space project and rugged – with attached housings.
Housing affordability has also sparked angst from neighbors who have joined the call. Some have argued that more high-income housing should be part of Hamlet Street, with Marti Glynn saying she would like everything to be 100 per cent AMI – which is around $120,000 a year for a family.
“I have deep concern,” she said. “If we really want an integrated Boston, we need to stop building buildings just for the poor…I’d like you to be 100% AMI on this.”
Others, like Kit Binns of the Uphams Working Advisory Group (WAG), said building for higher incomes would run counter to Uphams Corner’s core mission – development without displacement. It was also noted that the average income at Uphams Corner is 55% of the AMI.
“It’s about displacement,” Binns said. “This is not housing for the poor. If we don’t build things like that, we’ll only have people who can afford an $800,000 condo. It is simply displacement.
The meeting was the first of what will be a series of meetings and processes before anything happens. First, the development team must convince the community and the city to become the designated developer. The city could refuse the project as proposed and reissue another tender later, or it could accept the idea. The public comment period on the matter ends on June 17.