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Garrison Trotter moving forward with new housing

Avery Bleichfeld
Garrison Trotter moving forward with new housing
The city is planning single and two-family homes on vacant land in the Garrison Trotter neighborhood planning area. BANNER PHOTO

A development project currently under review by the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) would bring 23 units of affordable and market-rate housing to the Garrison Trotter area of Roxbury.

The proposed development, which would include seven market-rate units and 16 affordable ones in the neighborhood, is the fourth phase in a series of projects that were first discussed about 40 years ago and began in earnest in the summer of 1999. Planning and discussions surrounding the current phase, which will include a mix of single-family and two-family homes, began in August 2019.

One key element of the project is its focus on homeownership opportunities rather than places to rent, noted Louis Elisa, president of the Garrison-Trotter Neighborhood Association (GTNA).

“[Homeownership] gives you money, it gives you balance, gives you a way to organize your finances,” Elisa said. “For Black and brown people in Boston, it’s a really important tool to be able to say, ‘I’ve got something, I have equity.’”

The properties will also have what Elisa said are other benefits of homeownership, such as a driveway to park a car off the street and amenities like a basement or laundry room, as well as the ability to expand.

“If you’re in a three-bedroom [home], you can have relatives over. You have a basement, you probably have an attic, you can expand and do other things,” Elisa said. “You can grow your family; you might be able to take in Grandma if she gets sick. That’s one of the benefits of homeownership. You can’t do that when you’re living in an apartment; they pretty much cap you to what you put on the lease.”

Roy Thompson, a GTNA member, said that the homeownership opportunities will help strengthen the neighborhood and its community.

“It’s really about giving homeownership opportunities to people … and making it affordable, because you know how expensive it is to live in Boston,” Thompson said. “It gives a great opportunity for people who have been in the neighborhood to keep staying and put roots down, and also to bring new people into the area who are going to be engaged and involved and keep our community strong.”

The project is shaped around what the community wants to see from it, said GTNA member Lauren Thompson, who is unrelated to Roy Thompson. She said she has seen other recent projects that are focused instead on what the developers or city want.

“This is what we want to see where we live,” Lauren Thompson said.

She said the design of the project will also match the atmosphere of the rest of the neighborhood.

“It’s going to maintain the character of the neighborhood, which is crucial because the [other] developments that we have seen in our neighborhood are box structures, they’re out of character,” Lauren Thompson said. “I think that’s a very important feature of this project.”

For her, preserving the neighborhood’s links to the past is important.

“It’s important to maintain the culture and history of a community,” she said. “It’s important to understand that at the Garrison-Trotter Neighborhood Association, we are all for development, but we’re also concerned with maintaining the character of the neighborhood.”

Roy Thompson said Phase 4 of the Garrison Trotter development is a good step in addressing a broader issue around housing availability.

“We need more housing in the city of Boston, and we need a variety of housing,” Roy Thompson said. “We need more affordable [housing]; we need more houses; we need more apartments. We need people who are going to want to build their families and build their lives in our neighborhoods, and not just pass through. I think the housing we’re building in Garrison Trotter Phase 4 is a step in the right direction.”

Roy Thompson said he hopes the 23 homes will offer an opportunity for residents to engage with the neighborhood and keep it strong.

“I’d like to see people who are engaged in the community, who want to make sure the schools stay good and get better, who are looking out for each other,” Roy Thompson said. “And it’s not just homeowners that make this happen — but considering the neighborhood already has a lot of rental units in place and there’s several apartment buildings, we wanted to add some additional homes in the mix. Traditionally, it’s been a neighborhood of homes.”

affordable housing, BPDA, Garrison Trotter, roxbury