Multi Residential

City of Boston Approves First Phase of $2B Redevelopment of Boston Public Housing Community

Boston – WinnCompanies and the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) announced that work will begin in 2024 on the $2 billion redevelopment of the Mary Ellen McCormack public housing complex under a two-phase master plan to build 3,300 mixed-income apartments on the 30-acre site, including the replacement of all 1,016 public housing units with a guaranteed right to return for current residents.

The announcement follows approval by the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) of the Phase One Development Plan for the South Boston property, which was the first public housing community in New England. The BPDA vote capped two-and-a-half years of design review by the City of Boston and clears the way for final permitting of the project.

Under the $776 million Phase One plan ratified by the BPDA, 1,310 apartments will be created in eight new residential buildings that will be built over the course of eight years, replacing 529 obsolete apartments for BHA households, and creating 781 new apartment homes for middle income and market rate renters.

In addition, WinnCompanies will spend $110 million on public infrastructure improvements to better connect Mary Ellen McCormack with the surrounding neighborhood through a revamped street grid, new utilities and parks, and long-term climate resiliency measures.

Built during the Great Depression and opened in 1938, the community consists of 22 three-story, brick buildings and 152 direct-entry row houses. In addition to being physically isolated from the surrounding neighborhood, the apartments fall well short of modern standards, with no handicapped accessibility, no in-unit or common laundry facilities, no amenities, and inadequate infrastructure and security.

Under the revitalization plan, new residential buildings will be built, and existing buildings will be demolished, in phases as part of a complex relocation strategy choreographed to allow as many of the existing households as possible to move directly into new apartments.

To facilitate and prioritize direct moves, a 94-unit apartment building will be the first erected. Since four out of 10 households in the community consist of individuals aged 62 or older, a 172-unit building offering a range of supportive and community services for seniors will also be among the first built.

A minimum of 20% of the apartments in the remaining six Phase One buildings will be reserved for current public housing residents. Contingent on final funding awards, the project will create up to 90 new middle-income apartments and up to 736 new market-rate units. 

Overall, Phase One construction will redevelop 18 acres of the Mary Ellen McCormack property, increasing open space by 73% with new pedestrian walking paths, separate bike infrastructure and gathering spaces. In addition, 33,000sf of ground-floor retail space will be created for local small businesses, including a grocery retailer. Twenty-five percent of retail space will be offered at below-market leases.

A 17,500sf community center, created through the adaptive reuse of the existing boiler plant on the site, will serve as the hub for resident support. 

All eight of the Phase One apartment buildings will be high-performance, fully electric and built to Passive House standards. All will be ready for future solar energy installations. Because the Mary Ellen McCormack site is susceptible to current and future flooding from nearby Boston Harbor, construction work will raise the grades of the property by 5 to 7 feet and all new buildings will be constructed above the 2070 projected flooding scenario projected by Climate Ready Boston.

The development team assisting WinnDevelopment on Phase One community planning, design and permitting include design firm CBT; The Architectural Team; Copley Wolff Design Group; the law firm of DLA Piper; retail consultant GraffitoSP; transportation consultant Howard Stein Hudson; civil engineering firm VHB; sustainability consultant New Ecology; historic consultant Public Archaeology Laboratory; engineering consultant McPhail Associates; and construction estimating firm Lee Kennedy Company.

Work could begin as early as June 2024, dependent upon permitting and regulatory approvals.

“We’re ecstatic to finally get to the point where we can look forward to the start of construction. The new buildings and community will be beautiful,” said Carol Sullivan, president of the Mary Ellen McCormack Tenant Task Force. “Winn and the BHA have put the residents first in every aspect of planning during the past six and half years. Our input has shaped everything from the relocation plan, the services we need, the retail choices, and security. Just being able to shop for basics in the community will make a big difference in residents’ lives. We can’t wait to get started.”

Phase One funding from an array of city, state and federal agencies will help leverage more than $780 million in private equity and debt. Financing will include more than $191 million in equity from Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC); $50 million from the City of Boston; appropriations from the state Legislature; and funding support from MassHousing, the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust (AFL-CIO HIT), and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing & Livable Communities (EOHLC).

The project is expected to create more than 7,000 construction jobs and more than 100 permanent jobs in property management, retail offerings and community services.

City of Boston approvals for Phase Two of the master planned redevelopment will be sought near the end of Phase One construction. The second phase is expected to produce 10 additional mixed-income apartment buildings on the remaining 12 acres of the property, featuring 487 replacement units for public housing residents and approximately 1,500 middle-income and market-rate units.