St. Kevin’s project fails to win state aid

The redevelopment of the former St. Kevin’s property in Uphams Corner has hit another roadblock by failing in its second attempt to receive crucial state funds. The setback comes as some community members are expressing concerns about the size and make-up of the project.

Lisa Alberghini, head of the Planning Office of Urban Affairs, which is spearheading the project through the St. Kevin’s Limited Partnership, said they are assessing their options and will likely apply for the next round of state funding in the fall.

“We’re not planning to stop or anything like that,” she said.

The 2.4-acre project, the boundaries of which include Davern Avenue, Bird Street, Columbia Road, and Virginia Street, includes the rehabilitation of a former school building and the construction of two new buildings. Under the plan, a total of 80 residential units – 12 one-bedroom, 60 two-bedroom and 8 three-bedroom apartments – and a library would be housed in the buildings, which will have an affordable housing focus.

If the proposal for the library, aimed at replacing the aging Uphams Corner branch currently located in a municipal building down the street, falls through, some of the space would be converted into space for the local community. Boston Public Library officials are said to be weighing their options.

The Planning Office of Urban Affairs, Inc., which is linked to the Archdiocese of Boston, is leading the redevelopment. Other organizations involved are the St. Mary’s Women and Children’s Center and Holy Family Parish.

The developers proposed demolishing the corner School Building, located at 530 Columbia Rd. and building a new five-story building that could include the library. The school building at 516 Columbia Rd. would be rehabbed, with a third story added, and converted into 21 residential apartments. The 35 Bird St. convent would be demolished and replaced with a 12-unit building.

State Rep. Carlos Henriquez, a Dorchester Democrat who lives in the area, said he hopes the dialogue between the neighborhood and developers continues. “We’re trying to figure out how to develop the whole neighborhood at once and St. Kevin’s would be a critical piece of that,” he said.

Lawrence Fabian, a Virginia Street resident, said the project, as proposed, doesn’t fit well into the neighborhood. Many of the neighborhood’s questions focus on why the proposal includes all subsidized housing. Some, said Fabian, want to see a mixture, with some market housing. Whether the library ends up moving in there is another question, he said, as are concerns about traffic and parking. “I’m happy to hear we have some time,” he said. “The bigger issue is how does it fit into greater Uphams Corner and how can it help leverage the fact that we have the Strand Theatre there.”

Alberghini said developers have modified some aspects of the plan in response to community concerns, such as handling trash inside one of the building and taking a floor off of a section of the building closer to the residential streets. She said they are also exploring ways to encourage the development’s residents to use public transit and bicycles.

Asked about market rate housing, Alberghini said some of the rents they plan to charge will come close to market rates. “I think there are people who still have concerns and that will continue on but we have been very open to working with the community,” she said.

Founded in 1945, St. Kevin’s Parish closed in 2008 as part of the archdiocesan consolidation effort. The overhaul of the buildings was announced in 2010.

In March, the Boston Redevelopment Authority signed off on an extension of the construction commencement date, pushing it back a year, to March 31, 2013.

The project received $1.75 million from the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) in 2011, subject to receiving commitments from the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). “We filed an initial funding application with DHCD in the April 2011 round but, given the number of applications the Commonwealth received, no DHCD funding was awarded to the project as a result of that filing,” Alberghini wrote in a Feb. 27 letter to the BRA, updating the agency on the project and requesting the extension.

“After DHCD announcements were made public, we were invited to submit a project update to DND in November 2011 and subsequently met with the DND director and senior staff,” Alberghini wrote. “DND has renewed its support for the Project. In particular, DND has issued renewals of the funding awards supporting the resubmission of our DHCD funding application.”

The project has also received renewals of financing awards from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston, which came to $400,000, and a letter of interest from the Massachusetts Housing Partnership for a $2.67 million first mortgage, she wrote.

The project is seeking $7.1 million in DHCD subsidy funds, $1.7 million in low income housing tax credits, and $517,000 in state housing tax credits.

The applications for the second round of DHCD funding were submitted on Feb. 10 and the winners were unveiled last week in Beverly, with Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray in attendance. By the Patrick administration’s count, the funding amounts to $105 million in affordable housing and tax credits, directed at 26 housing developments, and building or preserving 2,200 units.

The St. Kevin’s project was not among the recipients.