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A new mixed-use and transit-oriented development with a focus on affordable housing is coming to Nubian Square in the next few years.
“The building itself is pretty exciting and a really great addition to Nubian Square,” Joe Backer, a senior development officer with the neighborhood housing development team at the city’s Office of Housing, told Boston.com.
The building will be a mix of retail, cultural, and entertainment spaces, with upper levels of the building reserved for residential spaces, and construction is set to finish in the spring of 2024, Backer said.
“There will be a couple of ground-floor retail spaces, including a new cafe for the Haley House, which currently sits on the site and basically acted as a development partner as this project was conceived of,” he said. “It’s really exciting that such an important community asset is going to get a brand new cafe space right on the street because now they’re set back on that parking lot.”
Haley House Bakery has been running in Nubian Square since 2005 but operations have paused for construction. The Haley House Bakery and Café will occupy a 2,000-square-foot space in the new development.
Out of the 74 total housing units in the building, 62 will be rental apartments and all of them will be “permanently affordable,” meaning they are available to people with incomes in between 30% and 80% of the area median income. Eight of those units at the lowest income tier will be set aside to house people who have been experiencing homelessness.
The remaining 12 units are condos that will be for sale. Eight of those units will be income restricted for 50 years, Backer said: four units will be available to households making 100% of the area median income and four will be available to households making 70% of the area median income. The last four will be at market rate.
A big part of the community process behind Plan Nubian, the overarching plan this development falls into, was artist-centric development. Preference will be given to Boston-area artists for half of the rental units and for all the homeownership units. The development also features a 4,100-square-foot artist’s workshop, open to residents and the community.
“We have a long history of supporting affordable housing projects that include a focus on artists,” Backer said. “In those cases, we work really hard to make sure that we’re balancing affordability considerations with the artist workspace considerations so that the whole building functions the way it needs to.”
The new development is 99,602 square feet and sits at 2147 Washington St. in Nubian Square.
“This is a city owned piece of land and there are a handful of those in and around Nubian Square and starting, I think, in 2016, we embarked on a really in-depth community process to define objectives for what those sites could be used for and then issue requests for proposals,” Backer said. “This is the first one from that process over six years ago that has gone into construction.”
Construction started in the spring of this year, after years of discussion and planning. In 2016, the overarching plan started with a process to define community objectives for a few city-owned plots. Then, in 2018, the request for proposals was put out, and the proposals received went through a community review process in 2019. From then through groundbreaking, the team pulled together the details of the development, Backer said.
“It’s really exciting that it’ll be an almost entirely affordable building with both rental and homeownership opportunities, all this support for artists, and at the end of the day, it’s going to fill in a big gap in the street where there had just been a parking lot,” he said. “I think everyone agreed that this was a better use of the land, was to get people housed and have all this support for artists and the many other things that come along with it, too.”
“There was always a really big focus on art and artists because of the history of Dudley Square and what it meant for the artist community in Boston, so that was always kind of the bedrock of what people wanted,” Backer said. “What they really were clearly saying they wanted on these sites was affordable housing, an emphasis on arts and culture where possible, and then using these developments as a way of lifting up local residents, local businesses.”
That goal of uplifting local people extends to the development and building process, as well as the permanent occupancy of the building, Backer said.
“This project exemplifies our commitment to building inclusive and equitable places for all people. We have very ambitious goals for building performance as well as an emphasis on supporting local artists and small businesses and of course, being a great place to live for residents,” Greg Minott, managing principal of DREAM Collaborative and DREAM Development, said in a press release.
There is an emphasis on hiring and contracting with a diverse group of people for this development, Backer said. Submissions were required to include a plan for minority outreach, with the goal of creating opportunities for people of color, women, and minority and women-owned businesses, according to a press release.
“As someone who works on a lot of different projects around the city, this one has always stood out and Plan Nubian has always stood out as a very community centric effort, especially when you look at how we brought in members of the community to actually evaluate the proposals and make the recommendations about which teams and which project should be selected for each site,” Backer said. “That was a really cool thing to be a part of, and I think made a big difference in the quality of the projects.”
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