The Somerville Housing Authority is working with SCC, Preservation of Affordable Housing and developer Gate Residential to rebuild and preserve 216 units of housing for low-income families at Clarendon Hill public housing on North Street in West Somerville – as part of a 526-unit mixed-income project.
The team received a $300,000 design and planning grant last month from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development to support predevelopment planning activities for the redevelopment of the site.
“The grant assists with work leading up to the construction, engineers, architects, planning studies for parking, traffic,” explains Senior Project Manager Jesse Kanson-Benanav. Just as important, the funding will help to bring on a relocation professional to work one-on-one with each family to ensure that their temporary move during construction goes smoothly. That person will deal with issues from accessibility to continuity of education for children.
“This planning grant makes us eligible for capital funds to help implement the actual redevelopment of the Clarendon Hill housing project,” explains Kanson-Benanav. This is an important first step in a multiyear process.
The team has already utilized the planning grant to engage Clarendon Hill residents as well as neighbors in discussions about the most effective and attractive designs for the property. There have been regular meetings with residents. And several public meetings have been held or are planned through the end of the year.
At the first community-wide meeting, sponsored by Ward 7 Alderman Katjana Ballantyne on September 14, 2016, the team emphasized that their main goal is to provide current North Street residents with vastly improved living spaces as well as to preserve affordable housing in the City, especially for families and children.
Attendees of the packed meeting had the opportunity to review a range of possible building designs, landscaping, places for play and relaxation, and to discuss density, parking and traffic. They were asked to comment on each design and share their preferences and concerns. A follow-up meeting was help in October, where participants were able to provide more insights – and learn more from the principals about the project.
A couple of weeks later, the residents of the housing complex were invited to a fun, outdoor event. Children enjoyed a bouncy house and face painting while their parents shared their hopes for the complex and asked questions about their family's temporary relocation over refreshments. Currently, the development team believes that they will need to relocate families in phases, as sections of the complex are renovated.