The Boston Housing Authority has filed plans for extensive renovations to Egleston Square's Doris Bunte Apartments, which used to be called Walnut Park Apartments, using a combination of new federal funding and tax credits for historic properties, which the city's tallest round apartment building now is.
Renovations of the 20-story round building will include installation of completely new HVAC components, windows, flooring and doors as well as extensive updating of kitchens and bathrooms and the removal of asbestos and the installation of sprinklers. The building will also be updated to make it more accessible to people with disabilities. The two-year project could begin in January.
In a filing with the BPDA, the authority says a key part of the financing should also come in January, when it finalizes an agreement with federal officials to convert what is now an officially designated public-housing building into the equivalent of a private building that accepts Section 8 vouchers.
The switch from public housing to Section 8 will mean a dramatic increase in revenue from federal housing funds - as a Section 8 landlord, the BHA will get an average per-unit subsidy of $1,670 a month, compared to the $672 it gets for each unit in official public-housing buildings. Assuming all of the building's 162 available apartments are rented, that alone is nearly $164,000 a month in extra income, which will help the BHA repay the long-term loan it is expecting from a state housing fund for the work.
The BHA says the financing shift will not affect tenants - they will continue to pay no more than 30% of their monthly income in rent. Nor will the change affect the tenants the BHA now allows into the building - senior citizens and younger residents with disabilities.
To become a Section 8 landlord - and to deal with the tax credits for renovations to a historic structure - the authority will set up a limited liability company to act like any other landlord that accepts Section 8 in Boston.
The BHA will go out to bid for a company that wants to invest in the historic-renovation tax credits, and which will become a part owner of the LLC set up to run the apartments.
In addition to funding the renovations, the extra revenue will let the authority hire an on-site "service coordinator," a sort of concierge who will help residents with appointments, transportation, referrals to service providers and translation for non-English speaking resident. The coordinator will also be responsible for organizing activities for residents.
The 54-year-old building was designated for placement on the National Register of Historic Places in 2019, the authority says:
Built in 1967, the residential apartment tower was designed by the Boston-based architecture firm Richmond & Goldberg, in collaboration with the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) as part of the plan for the Washington Park Urban Renewal Area. It is the only federally funded, cylindrical apartment building designed specifically for elderly housing in Boston. The building exhibits characteristic Modern architecture components, including the use of industrial materials, pebble dash end walls, colored metal panels, and raised horizontal and vertical concrete bands.
To prepare for the work, the BHA says it stopped approving new rentals this past February.
Renovations will be done in 19 units at a time, with each section of units expected to take eight weeks for a full renovation. Any residents living in apartments will be moved to other units in the building temporarily - except for residents living in apartments specifically outfitted for "accessibility," who will either be offered units in other BHA buildings or hotel rooms during renovation.
Doris Bunte Apartments filings and calendar.