Mixed-Use Project Promises to Bring Affordable Housing, Library to Chinatown

A planned mixed-use development project promises to bring much-needed affordable housing and a long-awaited neighborhood branch of the Boston Public Library to Chinatown.

“We’re excited to be partners and beneficiaries in bringing a permanent library to Chinatown,” David Leonard, president of the BPL. “When the opportunity presents itself, we’ll have a deeper dive into the library components.”

A 350-foot-tall, approximately 426,500 square-foot building proposed for 290 Tremont St. (a/k/a Parcel P-12C) would consist of a 100-percent income-restricted residential tower offering up to 171 affordable rental and condo units; a hotel with up to 200 rooms; as many as 340 off-street public parking spaces; retail space with room for a café; and up to 14,000 square feet of community space, which is anticipated to accommodate the library. Other elements of the project include plans for a pedestrian connection between Washington and Tremont streets, as well a courtyard with ample “sitting pockets.”

The project marks a unique four-way collaboration between four proponents – the Asian Community Development Corporation (ACDC), a nonprofit that develops affordable housing in Chinatown; Corcoran Jennison Company, Inc., a Boston property-management company that manages the nearby Doubletree Hotel Boston Downtown; MP Boston, the real estate developer behind the Winthrop Center skyscraper now under construction in Downtown Boston; and Tufts Shared Services, Inc. Santec of Boston will serve as lead architect on the project.

“Parcel P-12C is one of the few city-owned sites in Chinatown that the community has been advocating for decades to be put towards affordable housing,” said Angie Liou, ACDC executive director, at a community meeting sponsored by the Boston Planning and Development Agency, Tuesday at the Josiah Quincy School.

 Elizabeth Peart, a transportation consultant with Chelmsford engineering firm Howard Stein Hudson, said a transportation analysis showed that the project would have no impact on service at the nearby MBTA Orange and Silver lines, nor would it affect existing parking or traffic conditions.

Bike parking would be provided on-site, along with showers and locker rooms for residents and employees, while the proponents would also a Traffic Demand Management (TDM) plan to develop further strategies to discourage driving to the site, Peart said.

The latest proposal departs from plans the proponents presented in February of last year, Liou said, in that the distribution of affordable rental and condo units has shifted: while the early iteration contained more condo than rental units, the reverse is true with the latest proposal, which also has a wider range of rental rates based on area median income.

Warren Wong, a longtime Chinatown resident, was among those in attendance who balked at the proponents’ decision to favor affordable rental units over condos.

“We need more home ownership,” Wong said. “I grew up here, feel like I belong here and don’t want to go anywhere else.”

City Councilor Ed Flynn said, “The community really needs more affordable housing because I know we have a lot of people who have been displaced by AirBnB and high rents. I want to thank the residents for never giving up on the dream of having a state-of-the-art library in their neighborhood and more affordable housing in Chinatown.”

Public comments are being accepted on this proposal until Nov. 15; to submit comments or for more information on this project, visit http://www.bostonplans.org/projects/development-projects/290-tremont-street-(parcel-p-12c).

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