IBA Celebrates Transfer of West Newton Housing

After many years of planning and seeking funding, IBA and the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) have finally closed on an entire block of housing on West Newton Street in the South End – taking over what was once public housing, renovating it substantially and bringing it into the fold of the Villa Victoria portfolio – which is primarily located just across the street.

“As living costs continue to rise across the city, we remain firmly committed to identifying new ways to expand affordable housing and empower low-income minority residents in Boston,” said IBA CEO Dr. Vanessa Calderón-Rosado. “We are grateful to the Boston Housing Authority for providing us with an opportunity to come full circle with this property, revitalize the West Newton/Rutland apartments and welcome its residents into our community.”

For IBA, it is a return to the past, as they were the original developers of the housing tract, having transferred it in the past to the BHA.

On Wednesday, Feb. 6, a full celebration took place to honor the official transfer to IBA, who became the designated developer in 2014 when the BHA put out an RFP for public-private partnerships at that and other properties.

Mayor Martin Walsh joined BHA Director Bill McGonagle and Calderón-Rosado to celebrate the launch of the West Newton/Rutland Apartments rehabilitation. The project will transfer ownership of the South End properties from the BHA to IBA to renovate and preserve the properties’ long-term affordability for future generations.

No current residents will lose their housing, and all will be able to come back if they so choose, Calderon-Rosado said.

“Preserving Boston’s affordable housing stock is key to ensuring that everyone who wants to live here can afford to do so,” said Mayor Walsh. “I’m proud that because of this partnership these affordable units will be preserved for hundreds of families in the South End for decades to come.”

The $47.2 million project will preserve 146 units of affordable, public housing on West Newton and Rutland streets in the South End. BHA is providing the operating subsidy associated with all 146 apartment units. The rehabilitation work includes exterior masonry repairs, new windows at the roof dormer level, exterior doors, roofs, fire alarms, accessible ramps and a sprinkler system. Eight units will be renovated to be accessible units and 11 units that are currently uninhabitable will be made available once again.

IBA will convert the public housing units to long-term rental assistance, with 110 units funded through the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program and 36 units funded through Section 8 project-based vouchers provided by the BHA. The development will be restricted as affordable for 99 years through a restricted ground-lease with the BHA.

“It’s a great day for residents of the South End. As we work to upgrade our public housing units, one of our priorities is to make sure that we do not lose a single unit of affordable housing in the process,” BHA Administrator Bill McGonagle said. “This project ensures that these deeply affordable units are preserved for hundreds of families in the South End in the decades to come.”

The project will be funded through federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, federal and state Historic Tax Credits, and a construction to permanent loan of $7.76 million utilizing tax-exempt bonds. Lenders include MassHousing, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Wells Fargo.

In 1977, IBA conducted a renovation of the West Newton Street properties, converting late 19th century brick South End row-houses into public housing for the BHA . Going forward, they will offer residents access to IBA’s residential programs and services, which include education, workforce development, advocacy, arts and cultural programming.

The question about the steeple next door?

Just across the street from the celebration of West Newton housing lied a very large question mark – and that question mark is in the form of a steeple.

The Villa Victoria Center for the Arts on West Newton Street is currently at a crossroads as IBA’s leaders and the South End Landmarks Commission begin to look at what can be done to save the building – if it can be saved at all.

At a January meeting of the South End Forum, and at meeting previously, IBA CEO Vanessa Calderon-Rosado said they are at a point where they need to make a decision.

The structure has served as a pre-school and an arts programming center for many years.

“We are in the mothball phase of this now and will be back to the community when we have more information,” she said. “Landmarks is intensely interested in the building and is exploring their options.”

In 2017, they began a $10.9 million rehab of the steeple and the exterior of the facility. However, by the end of the year, they found some serious problems. In the spring of 2018, they realized that much of the steel in the steeple had rotted and the roof supports had rotted.

She said they now have four options.

The first option is to remove the building and design a new center for the arts and a new cultural center. The second option would be to save the Parish House and remove the sanctuary part. The third option would be to save the façade and build around it – much like is being proposed at the Hotel Alexandra. The final – and most expensive option – is to rebuild what is there completely.

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