Mayor Martin Walsh and the city’s Community Preservation Committee (CPC) this week recommended that six projects in Dorchester be among the 35 projects set to be included in the upcoming first round of funding through the Community Preservation Act (CPA) that was approved at the ballot in 2016.
The city has accumulated the funding in part from the levy of a one percent tax-based surcharge on residential and business property tax bills that began last July.
The “shovel-ready” projects — all needing less than $500,000 to begin construction by the fall — were eligible to apply for funding, which will provide new investments in affordable housing, parks and open space, and preservation of historic sites in Boston’s neighborhoods.
The Dorchester projects selected to receive funds include Uphams Corner’s Sip & Spoke Bike Kitchen, the Lemuel Clap and William Clapp Houses, the Talbot Commons housing development, Arx Urban Development’s Jones Hill/Savin Hill project, a restoration of Hemenway Playground, and the Talbot-Norfolk Triangle Children’s Garden.
The proposed funding grants for the six projects range from $30,000 to $500,000. Sip & Spoke will get the largest share of the Dorchester projects at $365,000.
Walsh was upbeat about the pilot program, which he said “is working the way it’s supposed to,” after a neighborhood coffee hour on Tuesday morning at Dorchester’s Ronan Park. “I feel good actually,” he told the Reporter, adding, “but we have so much community preservation that needs to happen in the city. We’re a historic city and a lot of these historic sites are nonprofits. They’re not eligible for federal money or state money and there’s not enough around. So, the CPA will allow the opportunity to do some major renovations to some of these places.”
The City Council was due to vote on allocation of the funds, which would total over $8 million, on Wednesday at its weekly meeting.
For small projects – many came in under $100,000, although larger housing projects and open space renovations like Martin’s Park in South Boston are recommended to receive $500,000 – the funds provide a needed, and visible, boost.
Earl Taylor, the president of the Dorchester Historical Society, said the group is “encouraged that we were recommended by the CPA committee” for the repairs to its colonial-era houses. If approve, the society’s $51,000 will help with the completion of exterior work around the William Clapp property, including new siding, painting the barn, fencing repairs, and the like.
“The process was quite easy,” Taylor told the Reporter. “This is their first round of funding, so they’re experimenting with what they can do, looking sort of for things that could be done quickly.”
The sense Taylor got was that the committee wanted to “make an impact” in the first go, before settling into the second round of project applications in the fall that will offer the opportunity to broaden the range of projects to neighborhoods that were not selected in the first round, like Mattapan.
The property tax surcharge will bring in a substantial infusion of funds designated for affordable housing, open space, and historic preservation, the act’s proponents have said. State matching funds will increase the funding even further.
“I mean, the project has a lot more cities and towns in it now than when it was created,” Walsh noted, “and I was proud of the Legislature when that happened. It was a dollar for dollar match, and I think it’s about seventeen cents on the dollar now. So, at some point I’d love to see a major infusion of resources into the state side of it because, you know, $20 million compared to $40 million is a big difference."
“I think this is a way for the state, honestly, potentially to look at this and say, as the federal government cuts back on housing programs, this is a way for the state to actually fund [them.]"It’s through the Community Preservation Act, which puts it in the hands of cities and towns to choose which projects they want to move forward. So, it’s a great way for the state eventually to get there.”