A new tower filled with 100-percent affordable housing, a new Chinatown library branch and an expansion of a downtown hotel is expected to liven up an otherwise desolate corner of Tremont Street at the intersection of Bay Village, the Theatre District and Chinatown.
288 Tremont Street Partners, a collaborative entity of the Asian Community Development Corporation, Corcoran Jennison Companies, Inc., Millennium Boston and Tufts Shared Services Inc., are proposing to build a mixed-use project that prioritizes affordable housing, while integrating neighborhood uses to create a new streetscape experience along Tremont Street.
“We are really excited to start working on this project because of the affordable housing and programming to the neighborhood,” said Rea Pannesi, senior manager for disposition services for the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA).
A community meeting was held by the BPDA at the Josiah Quincy School on Wednesday, Feb. 28, to discuss the latest plans and gather community feedback. The BPDA received one response to their Request for Proposals on Jan. 10, 2018, from 288 Tremont Street Partners.
The redevelopment proposal includes the expansion of the Doubletree Hotel that abuts the project site to the south and the creation of 171 residential rental and home-ownership units, all 100 percent of which are income-restricted.
The adjacent Tufts Shared Services, Inc., parking garage expands from the north into the interior of the site with community space on the ground floor. The new community space, the developers hope will become the Chinatown branch of the Boston Public Library, a new community landmark that will face an inviting portal on Tremont Street.
The Chinatown Branch Library is temporarily being housed in the Chinatown Trade Center at 2 Boylston St.
The tower will sit on Parcel P12-C, a Boston Planning and Development Agency’s (BPDA)- owned parcel, and is located in the South Cove Urban Renewal Area.
“Since the 1990s, Mayor [Thomas] Menino envisioned Parcel 12 as an affordable housing project site for Chinatown,” said Angie Liou, executive director of Asian Community Development Corporation (ACDC). “It’s vision and priorities were incorporated from the Chinatown Master Plan where the ACDC collaborated in a month-long visioning process with the community. This project incorporates a list of priorities that Chinatown wants to see on the ground.”
The direct abutters to the site are in collaboration with the project. This allows Tufts Shared Services to continue provide parking for community needs, eliminate the need for additional access off Tremont Street, which will be replaced by storefronts and create a new pedestrian connection from Bay Village through Elliot Norton Park, across Tremont Street into Chinatown.
Traffic along Tremont Street would be reduced from three to two lanes to both slow traffic down and to create a better drop-off zone and pedestrian sidewalk.
Corcoran Jennison, the owners of the Double Tree Hotel, will expand the hotel with an additional 140 rooms on top of the ground-floor retail at the base of the tower. The top portion will be filled with residential units.
Out of the 171 residential units there will be 45 rental units for households of 30 to 60 percent of Average Median Income (AMI) and 126 homeownership units for households with an average AMI of 80 percent. There is an emphasis on low-income to family-sized rental units.
Residents had concerns that the AMI for the region would not reflect what many Chinatown residents make, which is around $20,000 to $25,000 a year, and asked for more creative ways to make it affordable for them to stay.
“The City and the Department of Neighborhood Services (DND) right now are looking into more home-ownership opportunities,” said Tim Davis, housing policy manager for the BPDA. “One idea is to have rent-to-own options to help people in lower incomes get into properties like this and continue to live in the city.”
Chinatown residents asked that the developers re-look at expanding the hotel and additional parking spaces and instead build even more affordable units in the tower and expand the community space for the library.
A representative of Tufts Shared Services says the parking lot is in high demand for patients who travel to get treatment during the week, but during the evenings and weekends, they would be happy to open it up for residents and community members to use.
Michael Corcoran of Corcoran Jennison Companies, Inc., that owns the Double Tree Hotel said that many nights the hotel is sold out, and if there is a convention, many guests go out to the suburbs because they can’t find any hotels in the city to stay.
But despite the demand, residents still want the focus to be on the residents who live in the community.
“It is a public parcel of land,” said a representative from Friends of the Chinatown Library. “It should provide services and things that are most important for our community; this is public land and it should go to the community.”
A feasibility study showed that to have a viable library branch that has programs for young children to teens to seniors, there needs to be at least 1,500 square feet of space. The current proposal only has 8,000 square feet allocated for the library.
In addition, residents want to see even more housing for Chinatown residents, especially since the rising cost of housing has displaced so many of the residents already.
“As a community we have given up so much but it’s time the city and the community hears us because we’re not going away,” said Suzanne Lee, a board member of the Chinatown Community Land Trust.
The comment period for this project ends on March 23.