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Officials mark 3rd phase of Flat 9 at Whittier project

Avery Bleichfeld
Officials mark 3rd phase of Flat 9 at Whittier project
U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley addresses officials gathered to mark phase three of the redevelopment of the Whittier Street public housing development. PHOTO: AVERY BLEICHFELD

Community members and officials on April 13 celebrated major milestones in the redevelopment of the Flat 9 at Whittier complex. Members of local, state and federal government, joined by members of the development team and community residents, marked the completion of the second phase of the redevelopment as well as the groundbreaking of its third and final phase.

The complex, originally built in the 1950s, first served as home to 200 public housing families. Now a collaboration between nonprofit Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), the Boston Housing Authority, the city of Boston and Madison Park Development Corporation, the complex has been under redevelopment since 2013, with a community engagement project designed to make sure the complex reflected the need of the community.

At last week’s event, Mayor Michelle Wu said that the development — which, when complete, will include 316 units of mixed-income housing, community spaces and commercial spaces for small businesses as well as bike lanes, a pedestrian-friendly design and public art — is an important example of collaboration between different levels of government.

“At a time when housing is a top priority in our city and around the country, we are so grateful to be putting the final touches on this example of what’s possible when we partner across sectors and levels of government,” Wu said. “When we have champions at the federal level delivering the funds to make this possible, when we have partners at the state level thinking about Boston or urban communities as absolutely essential and making sure that our housing is not only creating new affordable housing but updating and maintaining the housing that we already have, and with partners at the city level and City Council and throughout the administration, who will always prioritize people first.”

Members of local, state and federal government, joined by members of the development team and community residents, gathered for the groundbreaking of the third and final phase of Flat 9 at Whittier redevelopment. PHOTO: Avery Bleichfeld

Roger Brown, managing director of POAH, said one goal of the project is to make the complex as integrated as possible.

“Not just racially, because that’s going to happen — but by helping us build a capital stack to support a diverse group of incomes,” Brown said. “A lot of times the financial tools that we have to use will not allow us to do that.”

That has been made possible, Brown said, by support from MassHousing, a state-level agency that helps provide financing for affordable housing, as well as direction from former acting Mayor and City Councilor Kim Janey.

The complex will have apartments designated for low- and moderate-income residents as well as market-rate units.

At the event, speakers celebrated the impact the redevelopment has had on the surrounding community.

“All of you have helped to realize this dream,” said Kate Bennett, administrator of the Boston Housing Authority, “of not only incredibly beautiful housing that surrounds us today but also a revitalized Ruggles street, a new park and playground down the street, the thriving DeWitt Center, stronger businesses in Nubian Square [and] two flagship public art installations that will happen nearby now that this is getting built.”

She added, “This project has been truly transformational, not only within the borders of this site, but throughout the entire neighborhood.”

Nayomi Dowman, a resident at Flat 9, called the area around the development “flourishing.”

“Thank you so much for the reestablishment here right in Roxbury, because being local, being close to all of the museums, the exhibits, the bodegas — everything that we need to run our life and to raise our family is close by,” Dowman said.

Officials attributed the success and drive of the redevelopment to community members pushing for change.

“We are grateful for our partners at every level of government, and the most important partner of all, the community,” said Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. “These buildings are great because the people of this community are great.”

The first phase broke ground in 2018 and was completed in January 2020, offering 92 units and amenities like a community lounge and playground. The second — the completion of which was officially celebrated April 13 — marked the addition of 52 units and was finished in December 2021.

As the project begins its final phase, which will add the last 172 units, community members expressed gratitude for a housing resource that allows them to stay in their community.

“Without this project and everyone behind it, my family and I would not be living in this glorious reestablishment in my community,” Dowman said. “I was born and raised in Boston; this is where I want to raise my own family: [somewhere] rich, cultured and amazing, all in all.”

Boston Redevelopment Authority, Flat 9 at Whittier, Madison Park Development Corporation, Preservation of Affordable Housing, Rep. Ayanna Pressley