Jackson Square was once a stretch of land where hundreds of homes and businesses had been demolished to make way for a major highway through Boston more than 50 years ago. But back then, community protest stopped the highway. And over the past decade and a half, a redevelopment plan has been bringing the neighborhood back to life one building at a time.
On Tuesday, officials gathered to cut a ceremonial red ribbon for the latest completed project: a mixed income apartment building at 250 Centre St., opposite the Jackson Square MBTA station. The building has 100 units, 76 of which are targeted to middle-income residents and low-income residents. That includes 15 apartments for those earning less than 30% of area median income (about $45,000 for a family of four). Officials stressed that income level included families coming out of homelessness, as well as service workers like teachers and firefighters.
“These folks will all live in the same building in a transit-oriented community which has incredible access to opportunity throughout the region,” said Andrew Waxman, of The Community Builders, the building’s developer.
The new apartment complex is part of the Jackson Square redevelopment plan, which was shaped by years of community input and includes multiple buildings and a new greenway. The plan covers roughly 11 acres where more than 50 years ago “hundreds of homes and businesses were razed to make way for an 8-lane extension of I-95 that was planned to stretch from Roxbury Crossing to Dedham,” according to the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation.
Project participants said the plan was knitting the community back together.
“It was an absolute deconstruction of what we know today to be the most important thing that people value, which is their home, their community, their neighbors. And we lost all of that,” said Terona Ellis of JPDNC. “And that’s why this moment is so important for someone to say, ‘Hey, I came from a shelter, I have a place for my family, I have a place that belongs to me.’”
JPNDC along with Urban Edge, The Community Builders and the Hyde Square Task Force have already completed several buildings included in the plan along Amory and Centre streets. Several other components of the plan are in progress, including the redevelopment of Mildred Hailey apartments, a large public housing complex.
The 250 Centre building has features you’d expect to find in a luxury development: a coworking space, an outdoor terrace overlooking the neighborhood, a 24-hour fitness center, and apartments with in-unit laundry.
It takes a complex patchwork of funding to build mixed-income housing like 250 Centre. The new building came to fruition through a mix of funds, including the federal and state low-income housing tax credit, as well as financial support from nearly a dozen participants including the City of Boston Mayor's Office of Housing, Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities, MassHousing Finance Agency, and Santander Bank.
Massachusetts Secretary of Housing Ed Augustus, who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony and toured the new building, called the Jackson Square redevelopment plan “the poster child for what we should be doing.”
“This is not something that was hatched at the State House or City Hall or anywhere else, it was hatched in this neighborhood by the people who live here and the people who had lived here about what they wanted this to be,” Augustus said.
“We can absolutely restore the community’s voice here, and that’s what we’ve done, and we’re really proud of that,” said Ellis.