The Obama administration today said it will spend $22 million to push forward the renovation of the Old Colony housing development in South Boston, which is already undergoing the first phase of a multi-million dollar makeover.
At a ceremony held in the schoolyard of the Michael J. Perkins Elementary School, federal lawmakers, Mayor Thomas Menino and the regional leader of the US Housing and Urban Development announced the awarding of the grant to Boston and a similar award to Taunton.
Joining the dignitaries were students from the Perkins, which is surrounded by the housing development and whose students have built a strong bond between the workers and companies involved in the renovation, which is expected to cost a total of about $80 million, officials said.
“Each part of the process has been a learning experience for our students,’’ said Perkins principal Barney Brawer.
The existing Old Colony was identified as the least-green development in the city and has already earned $22 million for the first phase of the renovation from federal economic stimulus funding.
That phase, which has led to the relocation of dozens of families into other parts of the development, is the highly visible construction project underway at the rotary for Old Colony Avenue and Columbia Road.
Old Colony currently has 223 units of public housing. The new development will have a total of 169 affordable rental apartments, according to HUD.
Brawer said the architect who designed the overall renovation came to the school and explained how the new units will be environmentally friendly. Every student – along with school bus drivers, staff and some parents -- was also allowed to sign a large steel I-beam before it was installed.
And, most significantly for the students involved, an election among students was held to determine the name of the large crane that dominates the skyline of the development. The school is posting accounts of its relationship with the construction project online.
“You know the book, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel? Many people don’t remember that the steam shovel has a name,’’ Brawer said, adding that the machine's name was Mary Anne. “Our students had the chance to name the biggest crane…The Big Giraffe beat Clifford the Crane by four votes.’’
US Sen. John F. Kerry and US House members Stephen Lynch, Barney Frank and Michael Capuano attended the ceremony.
To the political figures who gathered in a slight rain underneath a white tent, the grant means work for construction unions, an upgrade in the quality of life for the working class tenants of the Boston Housing Authority and an investment that will buoy neighborhood real estate values.
The grant to the BHA is part of the HUD program known as HOPE VI. The Taunton Housing Authority also won a $22 million grant to renovate its Fairfax Gardens housing development.
“The Hope VI program is very competitive; there are dozens of applications, very good applications,’’ said Bill McGonagle, BHA’s administrator. “So, it was far from a lock that we were going to get this. We are delighted we did.’’
Once fully completed, the Old Colony will have a smaller number of units and will have townhouses instead of the current garden-style apartment buildings.
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