Putting Vacant Land to Productive Use in Boston
Dudley Greenville’s mixed-use building fills a gap along the commercial section of Dudley Street and provides 31 affordable rental units and 3,000 square feet of retail space. Credit: Joanne Brown, The Visual Source. For years, the Dudley Square neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts has been a laboratory for resident-led urban regeneration. From the creation of Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in the 1980s to the Orchard Park HOPE VI initiative in the 1990s, Dudley Square residents have spearheaded or been intimately involved in projects that repurposed abandoned or distressed neighborhood properties. These efforts to rejuvenate the neighborhood are reaching fruition as the last two vacant lots along the otherwise vibrant Dudley Street have been transformed into Dudley Greenville, a mixed-use development with 43 residential units affordable to low-income households.
Distressed Properties in Dudley Square
Dudley Square was a very different neighborhood 30 years ago, when nearly one-third of the area’s properties were abandoned. Cycles of disinvestment and arson gave rise to a sea of vacant lots, which in turn attracted illegal dumping. In 1984, Dudley Square residents and tenants of the Orchard Park public housing development came together to create the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) to deal with the trash epidemic. DSNI organized clean-up campaigns and forced several illegal waste dumping areas to close. Those efforts were followed by a community-created revitalization plan, which the city adopted in 1987, and the creation of DSNI’s community land trust in 1988 to acquire blighted properties
Despite these neighborhood improvements, Orchard Park continued to undermine the wider community. The Boston Housing Authority characterized Orchard Park as “one of the most severely distressed” of its properties, and after intense pressure from the Orchard Park Tenants’ Association, the housing authority used $30 million in HOPE VI Planning and Implementation grants to turn Orchard Park into Orchard Gardens. Madison Trinity LLC, a joint venture of Madison Park Development Corporation (MPDC) and Trinity Financial, was selected to lead the project.
From 1996 to 1999, the Hope VI initiative sought to both redevelop the blighted public housing site and address the wider issue of disinvestment in Dudley Square. Through demolition, construction, and renovation, including repurposing the historic Dearborn School, Madison Trinity built 331 high-quality mixed-income housing units on the Orchard Park site. On nearby vacant land, community development corporations built 76 units of rental housing and 15 units of affordable homeownership housing. The project won a Best Practices Award from HUD in 1999 and an American Institute of Architects/HUD Secretary’s Community Building Award in 2000.
The Final Piece of the Puzzle
On the last two sites acquired during the HOPE VI initiative, MPDC constructed Dudley Greenville, which fills two very visible gaps along the commercial section of Dudley Street. The project “creates continuity in the retail storefronts, a desirable and modern landscape overall, and eliminates a source of loitering and criminal behavior,” according to Russell Tanner, MPDC’s director of real estate.
Dudley Greenville’s four-story residential building contains 12 affordable units and open space for recreation. Both of Dudley Greenville’s buildings achieved LEED Silver certification and are in proximity to the Dudley Square MBTA station. Credit: Madison Park Development Corporation. Completing the streetscape are a five-story mixed-use building and a four-story walkup on the next block. The mixed-use building has 31 affordable rental units, 3,000 square feet of retail space, and a community room; the second building has a two-bedroom unit and 11 three-bedroom units, as well as open space for recreation. All 43 units are affordable; 34 of them are available to families making up to 60 percent of the area median income, and 9 of the units are set aside for Section 8 voucher holders. Both buildings were designed to be energy efficient; they meet the standards for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification and ENERGY STAR® rating.
Dudley Greenville’s location amidst Dudley Square’s renaissance provides residents with a number of tangible benefits. The development is within walking distance of shopping, employment, and other services at the burgeoning Dudley Square Commercial District. And as an infill transit-oriented development within a quarter-mile of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s Dudley Square station, Dudley Greenville offers convenient access to downtown Boston and other regional destinations.
The Dudley Greenville project included extensive community outreach. MPDC regularly worked with two nearby community groups, the Mt. Pleasant Neighborhood Association and the Orchard Gardens Tenant Task Force, in garnering support for the project. Throughout the process, neighborhood residents expressed a desire to see the properties put to constructive use and the buildings designed to deter crime and vandalism. Residents convinced MPDC to increase the project’s density and include retail space to meet the growing demand from local merchants.
The project, which cost approximately $18 million, was funded through $8.6 million in state and federal low-income housing tax credit equity and $9 million in tax exempt bonds. The financing structure is unique for Boston area projects because the 4 percent housing tax credits funding the new construction are more typically used for rehabilitation and preservation projects. Russell Tanner explains the move as “a very effective use of the credits for the state, as it brought in a significant equity investment from the federal credits that would otherwise not be made.” MPDC received state brownfields financing for site remediation and additional financing from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and the city of Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development.
Interest in Dudley Greenville provided evidence of the great demand for affordable housing in Dudley Square. Tenants were selected through a lottery system from among the more than 940 applications submitted for the development’s 43 units. Dudley Greenville opened in July 2014, and by September, the building was fully occupied with low-income households.
Development without Displacement?
Development in Dudley Square has now reached a crescendo. MPDC recently restored the historic Hibernian Hall to house an arts center, and another local community development corporation renovated the Dartmouth Hotel as affordable housing. The historic Ferdinand Building is being rehabilitated to become the headquarters for Boston Public Schools. And the Boston Redevelopment Authority recently approved two large private developments that will include residences, offices, a hotel, and retail space, including a grocery store. As blight fades into Dudley Square’s history, the surge of new projects has created other concerns, the biggest being displacement of residents who stayed in the neighborhood through its years of disinvestment. Residents are proactively meeting these new challenges with an updated master plan that will retain strong resident influence over the civic, cultural, and economic life of their community.
E1. Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative. 2014. “DSNI Historic Timeline.” Accessed 16 December 2014; Abt Associates. 2003. “Exploring the Impacts of the HOPE VI Program on Surrounding Neighborhoods.” Accessed 17 December 2014; Matthew H. Greene. 2009. “The HOPE VI Paradox: Why Do HUD’s Most Successful Housing Developments Fail to Benefit the Poorest of the Poor?” Journal of Law and Policy 17:191, 191–229. Accessed 2 December 2013; Madison Park Development Corporation. 2013. “Projects In Development | Madison Park Development Corporation: Dudley Greenville.” Accessed 11 November 2013 (website content has changed and this document is no longer available); Madison Park Development Corporation. 2014. “Affordable Housing.” Accessed 18 December 2014.×
Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative. 2014. “DSNI Historic Timeline.” Accessed 16 December 2014.×
Boston Housing Authority. 2013. “Orchard Gardens.” Accessed 2 December 2013 (webpage content has changed); Abt Associates. 2003. “Exploring the Impacts of the HOPE VI Program on Surrounding Neighborhoods.” Accessed 17 December 2014; Sean Zielenbach, Richard Voith. 2010. “HOPE VI and Neighborhood Economic Development: The Importance of Local Market Dynamics.” Cityscape: HOPE VI 12:1, 99–131. Accessed 11 December 2014; Eric Hangen, Jeanne Pinado. 2006. “Madison Park Development Corporation Case Study.” Accessed 18 December 2014.×
Boston Housing Authority. 2013. “Orchard Gardens.” Accessed 2 December 2013 (webpage content has changed); Abt Associates. 2003. “Exploring the Impacts of the HOPE VI Program on Surrounding Neighborhoods.” Accessed 17 December 2014.×
Madison Park Development Corporation. 2013. “Projects In Development | Madison Park Development Corporation: Dudley Greenville.” Accessed 11 November 2013 (website content has changed and this document is no longer available); Interview with Russell Tanner, 2 December 2013.×
MassDevelopment. 2013. “MassDevelopment Bond Boosts Affordable Housing in Boston’s Dudley Square,”(website content has changed and this document is no longer available) press release, 28 January. Accessed 18 December 2014; The Narrow Gate Architecture. n.d. “Current Projects: Dudley Greenville Rental Housing.” Accessed 18 December 2014 (information located on “Current Projects” webpage); Boston Redevelopment Authority. 2010. “Dudley Greenville Rental Housing Project to Bring 43 New Units to Roxbury,” news and updates, 18 August. Accessed 18 December 2014.×
Madison Park Development Corporation. 2013. “Projects In Development | Madison Park Development Corporation: Dudley Greenville.” Accessed 11 November 2013 (website content has changed and this document is no longer available); Interview with Russell Tanner, 2 December 2013; MassDevelopment. 2013. “MassDevelopment Bond Boosts Affordable Housing in Boston’s Dudley Square (website content has changed and this document is no longer available),” press release, 28 January. Accessed 20 November 2013.×
MassDevelopment. 2013. “MassDevelopment Bond Boosts Affordable Housing in Boston’s Dudley Square (website content has changed and this document is no longer available),” press release, 28 January. Accessed 18 December 2014; Interview with Russell Tanner, 2 December 2013.×
Tom Farmer. 2014. “Dudley Greenville Apartments in Roxbury Open and Fully Occupied,” MassHousing Blog, 14 November. Accessed 17 December 2014; Madison Park Development Corporation. 2014. “Once Homeless, Dudley Greenville Resident Gets a New ‘Lease’ on Life,” news, 7 October. Accessed 16 December 2014; Angel Babbitt-Harris. 2014. “Prospective Tenants Get 'First Look Tour' as Dudley Greenville Units Near Completion,” Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations news, 26 March. Accessed 16 December 2014.×
Boston Redevelopment Authority. 2013. “Dudley Square: Boston’s Most Historic Square.” Accessed 29 October 2013; Rian Amiton, Matthew Hammer, Joshua Morris, Elizabeth Nollner, Abigail Vladeck. 2009. “For Dudley, By Dudley: An Analysis of Gentrification Risk in the Dudley Square Area of Roxbury, Boston.” Accessed 21 November 2013; Boston Redevelopment Authority. 2004. “The Roxbury Strategic Master Plan.” Accessed 2 December 2013.×
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