Shawmut-Washington proposal would increase housing and community space

By Ling-Mei Wong 黃靈美 2018/05/17 Boston, Real Estate

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A public meeting on a Shawmut Avenue/Washington Street block project took place May 2 at the Boston Chinese Evangelical Church’s (BCEC) 120 Shawmut Avenue building. More than 100 people attended the meeting, hosted by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA). The project is three properties next to the Mass Pike, on Shawmut Avenue, Herald Street and Washington Street in the South End.

BCEC senior pastor Steve Chin said, “There is no housing at all with the existing uses of the land, but housing on this site would maximize the usage of scarce land. … There are benefits we are able to offer to the community and we feel this is a good project.”

The Shawmut Avenue/Washington Street planned development area (PDA) will include three buildings with a combined maximum of 660,456 square feet of gross floor area. The project site encompasses 112 Shawmut Avenue owned by the Davis Companies (TDC), 50 Herald Street owned by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) and 120 Shawmut Avenue owned by BCEC. TDC is a private developer, while CCBA and BCEC are nonprofits.

A total of 537 residential units will be added to the site, with 26 percent or 137 units being affordable, said Stephen Davis, TDC vice president of development. If the three properties developed separately, the total number of units would be 225, or less than half of the proposed number of units. The TDC building is vacant; it was sold by ABCD, which used the site as a commercial building and daycare location.

“The CCBA has set out to provide housing for the poor,” said Paul Chan, CCBA board president. The number of affordable units depends on how many housing vouchers are available, along with project subsidy from government sources. CCBA has a $3 million fund for affordable housing, which can be used for the design process, pending project approval. Its building would include housing and a commercial space. Its 50 Herald Street location is currently leased to C-Mart supermarket.

The PDA’s 537 proposed residential units include 139 for TDC, 314 for CCBA and 84 for BCEC. Parking spaces would be underground, with 110 for TDC, 114 for CCBA and 30 for BCEC. All three buildings would be 150 feet tall: the TDC building would be 13 stories, the CCBA building would be 14 stories and BCEC would be 12 stories. A pedestrian cut-through would improve access from Shawmut Avenue to Washington Street.

“We have ministry to bless the community: ESL classes since 1990, citizenship classes, afterschool programs for middle school students, summer day camp and senior citizen seminars monthly. We have services for the young all the way to the old,” Chin said.

The church plans to demolish its existing property at 120 Shawmut Avenue, a former three-story nursing home, to rebuild a new facility. The building would house the church worship space and activity areas on the lower floors, and have housing on the upper floors to offset building costs. It would consolidate BCEC’s services into one site, as the church owns the 249 Harrison Avenue building along with the 237 Harrison Avenue office building.

On Shawmut Avenue, neighbors include Castle Square’s 500 affordable homes and the Lucas, 33 luxury condominiums in the former Holy Trinity Church. Residents expressed concerns about traffic, building height and density. Castle Square Tenant Organization executive director Deborah Backus advocated for more affordable units.

CCBA auditor Nick Chau said, “I will hold their feet to fire to keep as much affordability in the project as they can.”

The public comment period for the PDA has been extended until June 1. The project then will be voted on by the BPDA board. Community members can give input at