Dream Development wins city’s Housing Innovation Competition
Dream Development won attention — and the right to develop a city-owned parcel — thanks to its innovative housing design. The newly-formed, black-owned development team beat out nearly a half-dozen competitors for the opportunity to build on 24 Westminster Avenue in Roxbury. One compelling feature that helped turn the tides in Dream Development’s favor is that the design plan is suited to accommodate changing family sizes, giving residents the ability to reconfigure their units as they have children, and reconfigure again once the children leave the nest or should older in-laws wish to move in. The team’s design is also easily shrinkable or scalable, allowing it to be replicated on parcels of varying sizes.
A jury of community members, architects, contractors, city planners and other officials selected Dream Development as the winner of its first-ever Housing Innovation Competition, which is aimed at pioneering ways of reducing building costs to make more units of housing available to middle-income and elderly residents.
The Dream Development team includes Gregory Minott of Dream Collaborative, a minority-owned architecture firm, as well as Saeed Coats of GPC Companies, Greg Janey of Janey Construction and Cheis Garrus, real estate development advisor. According to the team’s project summary, they plan to engage minority- and women-owned businesses for more than 50 percent of the sub-contracting and to exceed Boston Resident Jobs Policy requirements. Having convened a team with a broad array of development expertise early in the planning and idea development process was an important asset, Minott said during a meeting between the development team, city officials, and the Banner.
Competition managers challenged designers to present innovative housing models balancing comfortable living with affordable prices. Of particular interest was use of so-called compact units — smaller than standard units that allow more to be fit on a parcel. Dream Development beat out five other teams with a plan that was praised for suiting the needs of various generations of a family.
Dream’s design contains 11 units, including three one-bedrooms, four two-bedrooms, three three-bedrooms and one studio. Ten units will be market-rate condos and one homeownership unit will be priced for those making up to 100 percent of Area Median Income.
Eliza Williams, a member of the Garrison Trotter Neighborhood Association’s housing committee, said community members had several strong wants: allocated parking spaces, homeownership options and no micro-apartments. The Dream Collaborative design was one of the few submitted that included parking, she said, with its provision of six spaces for the 11 unit site. The housing is all ownership, with units that are compact, but larger than micro to make the space comfortable, Minott said. Unit sizing ranges from about 500 square feet to about 1,000 square feet, he said. Parking spaces will be sold separately at $10,000 each, to reduce costs on residents not needing them, according to site plans.
Developers expect to get city approvals and permitting finished by spring of 2018, after which they could begin construction that spring or summer, according to Minott. He anticipates a 10-month construction period. The total project cost is $2.55 million, with land comprising about $115,000 of that figure, state plans.
The three-story design features two main housing segments. One segment includes two adjacent two-bedrooms above a one-bedroom or studio. The second model has a ground-floor single-bedroom or studio beneath a three-bedroom unit, with a common hallway connecting them.
Minott said the team hopes the three-bedrooms and one-bedrooms will be purchased together. That combination allows an owner to retain the housing as their family changes size, potentially providing the one-bedroom to an in-law or aging parent. Owners also may build wealth by living in whichever unit better fits their family size, and renting out the other.
The multi-generational aspect had strong community appeal, Williams said.
“People love that idea,” she said. “You could have your parents there or your children there, and switch it out. It’s something that could stay in your family for a while.”
Minott said he envisioned the setup providing an affordable entry to homeownership and serving as a revenue-generating rental should the purchaser grow their family enough to wish to move to a larger home.
The design’s combination of two different housing model segments makes it easily replicable and adjustable to suit different parcels, Minott said. A developer could build a row of housing that alternates each segment type, extending as long as the site does, or match them together in different combinations as desired.
“The design is like a necklace in the way the units are arranged. For a deep lot or a shallow lot, you just take away or add beads,” he said.
Among the aspects that make such a design financially feasible are the efficient use of space, such as shared walls between units, which can be done without sacrificing privacy, Minott said. Janey and Minott said it also helped to have collaborators from all aspects of the construction and design cycle together at the drawing board to think through costs of each stage.
Max Sterns of the city’s Housing Innovation Lab said the competition is one piece of a larger effort to create a vision and policy around using compact housing.
While other city-owned sites were included in the housing competition, no developer was selected because city officials said they did not receive enough responses to offer the community sufficient options.