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Work should begin by summer on $2-billion makeover and expansion of Mary Ellen McCormack development, city's oldest public-housing complex, developer says

Rendering of proposed new Mary Ellen McCormack development

Rendering by CBT.

The BPDA board yesterday approved the first phase of a long-term re-do of Mary Ellen McCormack in South Boston, under which a developer working with the BHA will replace 529 antiquated BHA apartments and add 781 new apartments split between affordable and market rate.

Under the first, $776-million 18-acre phase, to be built over eight years, WinnCompanies will put up eight new apartment buildings - and space for a supermarket - replacing many of the current three-story apartment buildings and rowhouse-style units, which date to the development's opening in 1938. The work will also include conversion of the complex's current boiler room into the William McGonagle Community Center, named for the long-time BHA administrator who grew up in the project.

WinnCompanies said this morning it hopes to break ground in June. The complete project, which will include even more housing on the overall 31-acre site, will take a total of 15 years, the developer says.

Construction will be staged to allow current residents to move into new apartments from their old ones, rather than having to spend time at other BHA complexes, WinnCompanies says:

Under the revitalization plan, new residential buildings will be built, and existing buildings will be demolished, in phases as part of a complex relocation strategy choreographed to allow as many of the existing households as possible to move directly into new apartments.

To facilitate and prioritize direct moves, a 94-unit apartment building will be the first erected. Since 4 out of 10 households in the community consist of individuals aged 62 or older, a 172-unit building offering a range of supportive and community services for seniors will also be among the first built.

A minimum of 20 percent of the apartments in the remaining six Phase One buildings will be reserved for current public housing residents. Contingent on final funding awards, the project will create up to 90 new middle-income apartments and up to 736 new market-rate units. All apartments in any given building will have identical finishes, regardless of resident income.

In addition to the new buildings, Winn will also spend $110 million on infrastructure and utilities improvement, including a new public plaza and realigning the development's roads to better connect them to surrounding streets - and to raise the ground levels of new buildings by five to seven feet to better stave off flooding from nearby Boston Harbor as sea levels rise. The project wraps around Joe Moakley Park, which the city is redesigning to act as a sort of holding basing for when the sea comes pouring in.

Professors from Harvard, Boston University and Boston College will spend five years at the site, to study "how the massive makeover will affect the health and well-being of more than 1,000 children and adults" who live in the state's oldest public-housing complex.



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