YW Boston Building Proposed to House Previously Homeless

The building owned by YW Boston (formerly YWCA Boston) at the corner of Clarendon and Stuart streets in Back Bay is proposed for redevelopment into affordable housing, with half of its 210 planned units expected to go to people experiencing homelessness.

Beacon Communities intends to partner with the Pine Street Inn to renovate 50,000 square feet of space now comprising the existing 66-room Hotel 140 and 118 apartments into studio and one-bedroom rental units while the site’s three largest commercial tenants, the Lyric Stage Company of Boston, a nonprofit performing arts center; the Snowden International School; and YW Boston itself, would remain as part of the plan. There are also no exterior changes proposed for the historic 13-story building, and no new parking is planned for the project. (There are currently four spaces on site for staff).

Construction is expected to commence this summer, after the sale of the building is finalized, and to take around 20 months to complete, said members of the development team during a Jan. 13 virtual meeting sponsored by the Boston Planning and Development Agency.

Tenants would be required to sign leases for a minimum of one year that “would be available into perpetuity,” said Dara Kovel, CEO of Beacon Communities and they would all be screened via the process used by the Boston Housing Authority, which is also partnering on the project.

“We’re looking to find people who can be meaningful members of the community inside the building and outside it as well,” said Kovel, who added that all of the 79 existing tenants of affordable units would be “rehoused” during and after the renovation, although they might be relocated to other units in the building.

Besides having a full-time front-desk staff to make sure all guests check in, as well as two security guards on the premises 24/7, Lyndia Downie, president and executive director of the Pine Street Inn, said the building would also have staff on site to offer “wraparound services” to tenants.

State Rep. Jay Livingstone, a Back Bay resident whose district stops just short of the project site, said while he understands the concerns voiced by some neighbors over some of the building’s future tenants potentially being past criminal or sexual offenders, he said he is confident the staff is more than up to the task, since, as, he said, “the mix of service providers here is the best in the City of Boston.”

Added Rep. Livingstone: “I have a lot of faith that the project will be successful and really fit in the fabric of Back Bay [where] affordable housing is desperately needed.”

Lauren Brody, chief of staff to City Councilor Kenzie Bok, said as a strong proponent of affordable housing in the city, Councilor Bok also supports the project.

Nancy Armstrong, a member of the Impact Advisory Group for the project and director of operations for the Women’s Lunch Place staff member, said, “It’s so well thought out and not a departure from what’s there now, so I think it’s just a wonderful project.”

The city is accepting public comments on the project until Feb. 4, said Nupoor Manani, BPDA project manager; visit http://www.bostonplans.org/projects/development-projects/140-clarendon-street to learn more. Beacon Properties’ website for the project can also be found at 140clarendonst.com

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