Mixed-income building opens at Madison Park
Cass Apartments ‘completes’ Madison Park Village
More than 40 years ago, the Madison Park Development Corporation constructed hundreds of units of affordable housing on land cleared by the Boston Redevelopment Authority as part of its urban renewal push.
Over the decades, the community development corporation continued to build a community on land between Dudley Square and Tremont Street, including senior housing, recreational space, renovated commercial buildings and a performing arts space.
Last Saturday, MPDC celebrated another milestone — the completion of 76 units on a parcel of land along Melnea Cass Boulevard. Madison Park CEO Jeanne Pinado noted that the building sits on the last of the vacant parcels left in the wake of the BRA’s demolition of the neighborhood.
“It completes the last phase of Madison Park Village, a housing community that began five decades ago and has been renovated and preserved, that is affordable to families of all income levels,” she said during a ribbon-cutting Oct. 26 that was attended by Mayor Martin Walsh and other elected officials.
Pinado noted that the CDC received 4,000 applications for the 36 affordable units available in the building. The new building, called Melnea Cass Apartments, includes six market-rate units and 33 affordable units built expressly to replace those lost in the reconstruction of the adjacent Whittier Street Boston Housing Authority public housing development.
The new five-story building features flats and two-floor townhouse units. There is a common room on the second story and a bicycle storage room. The units look out over Melnea Cass Boulevard in the back and face the two- and three-story homes in Madison Park Village in the front.
The land was originally cleared in the 1960s, when planners at the BRA identified the area as the site for a proposed citywide high school. The school was never built, although Madison Park High School and what is now the John D. O’Bryant School of Math and Science occupy a good portion of the land. Where present-day Melnea Cass Boulevard now stands, hundreds of units were leveled for the proposed construction of an inner belt highway that also was not built.
MPDC, originally called Lower Roxbury Community Corporation, was founded in 1966 through the efforts of community organizers including Byron Rushing and the late Vincent Haynes. Its first residential buildings were constructed in 1977.
The CDC now owns a commercial building at the corner of Ruggles and Washington Streets and Hibernian Hall, which includes retail space, office space and a performing arts hall. The organization also undertakes extensive community organizing efforts, including RoxVote, a voter education and mobilization program that frequently hosts candidate forums.
But preservation and construction of affordable housing remains a key goal of the CDC.
The Melnea Cass Apartments building is part of the $30 million Whittier Choice plan, a HUD-funded project through which the Whittier Street housing development is being torn down and its affordable units reconstructed in new buildings. New market-rate housing will be built at the Whittier Street development’s current site on Tremont Street between Whittier and Ruggles streets.
At Saturday’s ribbon-cutting, Walsh said the Melnea Cass Apartments project is emblematic of the city’s approach to affordable housing, having drawn support from federal, state and local funding sources, including funds from the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
“We need to continue to work together,” he said.
Walsh noted that the city has created more than 6,000 new units of affordable housing since his administration kicked off its Boston 2030 housing plan, but stressed that more needs to be done.
“As anyone in this neighborhood can tell you, we still have a long way to go,” he said.
District 7 City Councilor Kim Janey said Roxbury has experienced the greatest increase in home prices in the city — a bump of 70 percent over the last four years.
“That’s a huge increase, and we can’t afford it,” she said. “We need projects like this that offer opportunities for residents so they can stay here.”