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Whittier Lyndhurst Washington Contributes to Eco-District in Boston’s Codman Square

Photograph of newly constructed 4-story building with 8 units on top of first floor commercial space in Boston’s Codman Square neighborhood.Whittier Lyndhurst Washington provides affordable housing and community space, including 1,000 square feet of commercial space on the first floor of a newly constructed building on Washington Street. Credit: David Ferron, Elton Hampton Architects.

Boston’s Codman Square District in southern Dorchester is a racially diverse, predominantly lower-income neighborhood with a rich history. Codman Square was an important civic and commercial center in Boston, home to churches, schools, businesses, and civic buildings dating to the early 19th century that sustained the immigrant and African-American communities that settled there. Despite its historical significance, rising levels of vacancy and disinvestment affected Codman Square in the second half of the 20th century, fueling its decline. Since 1981, the Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation (CSNDC) has worked to reverse this trend by developing sustainable affordable housing, stimulating economic development, and facilitating resident-led community planning. CSNDC has achieved some significant successes over the past few decades, including effectively advocating alongside other community groups for new stations in the neighborhood along the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Fairmount Line.These new commuter rail stations, including the Talbot Avenue stop, which opened in 2012, have made it easier for residents to access jobs in Boston while catalyzing transit-oriented development in Codman Square.

Whittier Lyndhurst Washington

Whittier Lyndhurst Washington, developed by CSNDC, is an example of a transit-oriented development project that connects residents to economic opportunity. Opened in summer 2017, Whittier Lyndhurst Washington consists of 44 units of rental housing involving both new construction and the rehabilitation of existing units. Scattered over four sites in the neighborhood, the project has turned some of the neighborhood’s problem properties, characterized by vacancy, crime, and environmental contamination, into community assets.

In addition to being transit oriented, Whittier Lyndhurst Washington incorporates sustainable, energy-efficient features. Twenty-eight of the development’s 44 units are located within the Talbot-Norfolk Triangle, a subneighborhood of Codman Square and Boston’s first eco-innovation district, a neighborhood-scale sustainable development created by CSNDC and neighborhood partners after a comprehensive planning process. An eco-innovation district, or eco-district, is a locally designated area of a neighborhood overseen by a cross-sector partnership that uses a comprehensive approach to achieve economic and environmental sustainability. Through grants, training, and other programs led by CSNDC and others, Talbot-Norfolk Triangle households are encouraged to achieve the goals of the eco-innovation district, including retrofitting existing homes with new insulation, generating locally sourced power through a program that places solar panels on rooftops, and transit-oriented development.

Photograph of the interior of a rehabilitated historic structure in Codman Square’s commercial district, showing a room with three large windows and wood flooring. Codman Square Neighborhood Developed Corporation used federal and state historic tax credits to rehabilitate older buildings into affordable housing. Credit: CSNDC.

Whittier Lyndhurst Washington’s four sites span just over half a mile along Codman Square’s primary commercial corridor. Of the 44 units, 21 are newly constructed and 23 are rehabilitated. The available housing includes one-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom units affordable to households earning 30 to 60 percent of the area median income. Five of the units are reserved for extremely low-income households earning less than 30 percent of area median income.

One of the new construction projects is a four-story apartment complex with eight units above a first-floor commercial space on the site of a former gas station. The other new construction project consists of 13 units in four buildings on previously vacant land adjacent to the historic John Greenleaf Whittier School. The four-story property features 1,000 square feet of first-floor retail that, as of December 2017, was leased to a minority-owned business. In addition, one of the buildings adjacent to the school site has a community space that residents and community organizations can use for civic activities.

Both of the rehabilitated Whittier Lyndhurst Washington properties involved significant renovation of older buildings. The first property, the John Greenleaf Whittier School, opened in the early 1900s but fell into disrepair over time. Eventually, the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development converted the property into public housing units. The state eventually transferred management of the units to CSNDC through a ground lease, which converted the public housing units into privately owned, publicly subsidized apartments, and the developer significantly renovated and rehabilitated the school site into 15 units of affordable rental housing. The second rehabilitated property, a historic apartment building in the heart of the Codman Square commercial district, was destroyed in a fire following CSNDC’s acquisition of the property in 2005. CSNDC took an interest in the property after community organizers staged a sit-in to reclaim the building, which had become a hotspot for crime that hindered the neighborhood’s commercial revitalization.

The Whittier Lyndhurst Washington project came together over two decades and required negotiations over land acquisition, environmental remediation, and financing. According to Gail Latimore, CSNDC executive director, CSNDC originally intended to develop the eight units in the historic apartment building into affordable condominiums, but the fire and the economic recession changed those plans. Eventually, CSNDC packaged the four sites into a single development with a total development cost of $20.4 million. The development was funded primarily through low-income housing tax credits, and RBC Capital Markets served as the tax credit investor. CSNDC used federal and state historic tax credits to fund the rehabilitation of the eight units in the historic apartment building. Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development contributed $1.6 million, and additional funders included Bank of America, Massachusetts Housing Partnership, Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and NeighborWorks America. The project’s energy-efficient features align with the city’s sustainability goals. In addition to high-efficiency heating and cooling systems and ENERGY STAR®-rated appliances, two of the properties are certifiable as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold.

Eco-Innovation District

In 2012, a multiyear community planning process convened by CSNDC concluded that creating an eco-district was one of the best ways to achieve economic opportunity, improve quality of life, and encourage sustainable transit-oriented development for the neighborhood’s mostly low-income, minority residents. The Talbot-Norfolk Triangle eco-innovation district, a 13-block subneighborhood of Codman Square, incorporates 28 Whittier Lyndhurst Washington units: the rehabilitated apartments in the John Greenleaf Whittier School and units in the newly constructed buildings on the adjacent land. The eco-innovation district uses multiple approaches to achieve its ambitious goals, such as installing home energy retrofits in at least 50 percent of the area’s homes; these retrofits, which are financed through grants and programs, save both energy and money. According to David Queeley, CSNDC’s director of eco-innovation, lower household energy costs encourage families to stay in place in the rapidly gentrifying city of Boston. Other components of the eco-innovation district include green infrastructure to improve the neighborhood’s environmental impacts and walkability, healthy living programs that encourage bicycling and walking, and pedestrian and bicycle safety programs.

CSNDC and other groups advocated for the city to designate the Talbot-Norfolk Triangle eco-innovation district as one of Boston’s first pilots in the Neighborhood Slow Streets initiative, a program that uses wayfinding and traffic calming measures to enhance safety. In addition to these efforts, the eco-innovation district focuses on affordable transit-oriented development. Projects like Whittier Lyndhurst Washington not only improve environmental impacts through their energy-efficient features but also enhance the economic prospects of low-income families by concentrating development near transit corridors.

Project Recognized for Sustainability

Local and national entities have recognized CSNDC’s comprehensive approach to sustainable development. The organization received Boston’s Greenovate Award, and the district was selected as a pilot for the EcoDistricts Target Cities program. Whittier Lyndhurst Washington exemplifies CSNDC’s commitment to equitable transit-oriented development that also contributes to the ongoing revitalization of a diverse and historic neighborhood in Boston.

Source:

EcoDistricts. n.d. “TNT Eco-Innovation District: Case Study / Boston, MA USA.” Accessed 20 December 2017; Boston Urban Symposium. 2014. “Mapping Neighborhood Transformation: An Assessment of Susceptibility and Recommendation for Codman Square.” Accessed 20 December 2017.

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Source:

Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation. 2016. “Charting New Paths: Annual Report 2015–2016.” Accessed 20 December 2017; The Giving Common. 2017. “Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation.” Accessed 20 December 2017; Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation. 2016. “Who We Are.” Accessed 20 December 2017; Document provided by David Queeley, director of eco-innovation, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation.

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Source:

Fairmount Indigo CDC Collaborative. n.d. “History.” Accessed 20 December 2017; EcoDistricts. n.d. “Talbot-Norfolk Triangle Eco Innovation District.” Accessed 20 December 2017.

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Source:

Document provided by David Queeley, director of eco-innovation, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation; City of Boston. 2016. “Mayor Walsh and Codman Square Community Break Ground on 44 Affordable Rental Housing Units,” press release, 10 May. Accessed 20 December 2017; Interview with Gail Latimore, executive director, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, 8 December 2017; Interview with Beth O’Donnell, director of real estate, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, 18 December 2017.

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Source:

Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation. 2017. “Codman Square Affordable Housing Facility Gets Grand Opening.” Accessed 20 December 2017; Interview with David Queeley, director of eco-innovation, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, 12 December 2017; Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation. 2016. “Eco-Innovation Initiative.” Accessed 20 December 2017; EcoDistricts. n.d. “Talbot-Norfolk Triangle Eco Innovation District.” Accessed 20 December 2017; 2017. Boston Planning & Development Agency. “EcoDistricts.” Accessed 20 December 2017; EcoDistricts. 2013. “Making EcoDistricts: Concepts and Methods for Advancing Sustainability in Neighborhoods.” Accessed 20 December 2017; EcoDistricts. n.d. “TNT Eco-Innovation District: Case Study / Boston, MA USA.” Accessed 20 December 2017.

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Source:

Document provided by David Queeley, director of eco-innovation, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation; Interview with Gail Latimore, executive director, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, 8 December 2017; Google. 2017. “Maps.” Accessed 20 December 2017; Interview with Beth O’Donnell, director of real estate, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, 18 December 2017; CoUrbanize. n.d. “Whittier, Lyndhurst & Washington Homes.” Accessed 20 December 2017.

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Source:

Interview with Gail Latimore, executive director, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, 8 December 2017; NEI. 2017. “Four Dorchester Problem Properties Transformed Into Affordable Housing.” Accessed 20 December 2017; Boston Planning & Development Agency. 2017. “Whittier Place Apartments.” Accessed 28 December 2017; Document provided by David Queeley, director of eco-innovation, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation; Interview with Beth O’Donnell, director of real estate, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, 18 December 2017; Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation. 2017. “Codman Square Affordable Housing Facility Gets Grand Opening,” press release, 9 May. Accessed 20 December 2017.

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Source:

Interview with Gail Latimore, executive director, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, 8 December 2017; Document provided by David Queeley, director of eco-innovation, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation; Interview with Beth O’Donnell, director of real estate, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, 18 December 2017.

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Source:

Interview with Gail Latimore, executive director, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, 8 December 2017; Document provided by David Queeley, director of eco-innovation, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation; NEI. 2017. “Four Dorchester Problem Properties Transformed Into Affordable Housing.” Accessed 20 December 2017.

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Source:

Interview with Gail Latimore, executive director, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, 8 December 2017.

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Source:

Interview with Gail Latimore, 8 December 2017; Document provided by David Queeley, director of eco-innovation, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation; Interview with Beth O’Donnell, director of real estate, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, 18 December 2017; City of Boston. 2016. “Mayor Walsh and Codman Square Community Break Ground on 44 Affordable Rental Housing Units,” press release, 10 May. Accessed 20 December 2017; NEI. 2017. “Four Dorchester Problem Properties Transformed Into Affordable Housing.” Accessed 20 December 2017; Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation. 2017. “Codman Square Affordable Housing Facility Gets Grand Opening,” press release, 9 May. Accessed 20 December 2017; Interview with David Queeley, director of eco-innovation, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, 12 December 2017; City of Boston. 2017. “Whittier, Lyndhurst, & Washington Homes Ribbon Cutting,” video. Accessed 20 December 2017; Document provided by Beth O’Donnell, director of real estate, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, 19 December 2017.

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Source:

Document provided by David Queeley, director of eco-innovation, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation; Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation. 2016. “Eco-Innovation Initiative.” Accessed 20 December 2017; Interview with David Queeley, 12 December 2017; EcoDistricts. n.d. “TNT Eco-Innovation District: Case Study / Boston, MA USA.” Accessed 20 December 2017; EcoDistricts. n.d. “Talbot-Norfolk Triangle Eco Innovation District.” Accessed 20 December 2017; Daniel Hartley. 2013. “Gentrification and Financial Health,” Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, 6 November. Accessed 20 December 2017.

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Source:

Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation. 2016. “Eco-Innovation Initiative.” Accessed 20 December 2017; EcoDistricts. n.d. “TNT Eco-Innovation District: Case Study / Boston, MA USA.” Accessed 20 December 2017; Interview with David Queeley, 12 December 2017; City of Boston. 2017. “Neighborhood Slow Streets.” Accessed 20 December 2017; Document provided by David Queeley.

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Source:

City of Boston. n.d. “Greenovate.” Accessed 20 December 2017; EcoDistricts. n.d. “Target Cities Program” Accessed 20 December 2017.

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