$1-Million Community Preservation Grant Earmarked for Project That Would Bring Library to Chinatown

A mixed-use development that promises to bring a long-awaited public library and much-needed affordable housing to Chinatown is set to receive $1 million as one of the projects earmarked for grant money from the Community Preservation Funds for fiscal ’20.

The city’s Community Preservation Committee (CPC) has recommended awarding an Affordable Housing Grant in that sum to help underwrite the construction of a 350-foot-tall building proposed for 288-298 Tremont St. (a/k/a Parcel 12C), Sheila Dillon, Chief of Housing and Director of Neighborhood Development, said Tuesday during a virtual meeting sponsored by the City Council Committee on Community Preservation Act.

The project would consist of up to 168 affordable rental and condo units; as many as 340 off-street public parking spaces; and up to 8,000 square feet of community space, which is anticipated to accommodate Chinatown’s neighborhood branch of the Boston Public Library, as well as retail space and a hotel with up to 200 rooms.

Construction is set to begin in mid-2021, Dillon said.

“It’s been so long that Chinatown hasn’t had a public library, and now we’re finally getting one,” said City Councilor Ed Flynn, who credited this longtime dream becoming a reality to the hard work of Mayor Martin Walsh, the CPC and the Chinatown residential community.

“I particularly want to thank Sheila for her close attention to affordable housing around Chinatown,” Flynn added.

The Asian Community Development Corporation is also slated to receive a $500,000 Recreational Use and Open Space grant for the Chinatown Backyard to transform a vacant lot on Hudson Street into a community garden, playspace and public art space.

City Councilor Kenzie Bok said she was pleased with the CPC’s recommendations to award a $4 million Affordable Housing grant to the ONE+ Program, which provides access to affordable loans to first-time home buyers in the city, as well to award a $95,000 Historic Preservation grant for repairs to the floor-board structure of the Gibson House Museum in the Back Bay.

“The Gibson House Museum is such a great little treasure,” Councilor Bok said. “I’m happy we were able to find a way to support it in the budget.”

Councilor Bok also voiced her support for a proposed $10,000 Recreational Use and Open Space grant for the Esplanade Association to plant 27 mature trees in the park, as well as for a recommended $35,000 grant to the Fenway Civic Association for irrigation installation at the Harry Ellis Dickson Park in the Fenway.

The Francis Dane House at 532 Massachusetts Ave. in the South End, which is home to the South End Historical Society, is also earmarked to receive a  $100,000 Historic Preservation grant.

In all, the CPC’s recommended Community Preservation Funds for fiscal ’20 amount to $24,309,000, and include nine Affordable Housing applications totaling $15,750,000; 16 Historic Preservation applications totaling $3,440,000; and 15 Recreational Space and Open Space applications totaling $5,119,000.

Community Preservation Director Christine Poff said a $1-million limit was set for Recreational Use and Open Space grants for fiscal ’20 to provide more funding for Affordable Housing.

“Maybe we could think about a smaller fund for community gardens, or think about a special grant program with smaller dollar amounts that will make a great difference in the neighborhoods,” Poff said.

Mayor Martin Walsh still must sign off on the recommended allocation of funding.

Boston voters approved the Community Preservation Act by voting “yes” on Ballot Question 5 in November of 2016, and the city subsequently created the Community Preservation Fund, which is funded in part by a 1-percent property tax-based surcharge on residential and business property tax bills and took effect in July of 2017.

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