Editorial: Milestone moment in Mattapan

A groundbreaking ceremony is set for next Wednesday (Dec. 18) at 2:30 p.m. at the site of the future Cote Village project in Mattapan. Work on the five-building campus, which will replace what has been a long-vacant and dilapidated car dealership on a prominent stretch of Cummins Highway, represents a $37 million investment into Mattapan. The complex will include 76 units of housing in a main apartment building and a series of 24 smaller townhouses laid out along Regis Road.

Cardinal Seán O’Malley, Mayor Martin Walsh and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito are listed as among the attendees at the groundbreaking on an invitation distributed to Mattapan civic leaders this week. The cardinal is a central figure in the development project because one of the two partners in the Cote Village proposal is the archdiocese of Boston’s Planning Office for Urban Affairs. The Catholic church-affiliated entity teamed up with another non-profit— the Caribbean Integration Community Development Corp. – to redevelop the site in a process that dates back to 2015.

The city of Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) has been another key partner in bringing the site to this point. The old Ford dealership — which takes up 2.3 acres, including the frontage along Cummins Highway — was owned by the city of Boston for decades after its previous owner went out of business and abandoned it in the 1970s. It has been sitting there ever since— in city custody— a true blight on the streetscape of an otherwise solid residential community.

Walsh, in one of his first acts as mayor, seized upon the potential of the location near the Fairmount Line for the abandoned property to be revitalized. [An earlier attempt to secure the site by an affordable housing developer fell apart in 2007 amid a recession and push-back from neighbors who argued that the plan at the time was too dense.]

The mayor had the good judgment to instruct DND to put the site “out to bid” early in his first term, and in a competitive process that included four different proposals for the site, DND awarded the designation to the winning team in 2015.

But winning the bid from City Hall was just the beginning. The partners next engaged in a robust public process that was at times contentious, with some nearby neighbors seeking to derail the project.

Thankfully, however, the greater good prevailed over narrow-minded NIMBYism. Aided by state and federal tax “low-income” credits that will help subsidize its construction, the developers have secured private financing to get the project— at long last— “in the ground.” (The initial plan called for construction to start in November 2016.) This will bring badly needed housing online for people who would like to live in Mattapan and live here affordably. Of the property’s 76 units, 57 will be rented as “affordable” for families, and 19 will be offered as “workforce” or “market rate.”

Congratulations to all of those who worked for the last several years to make this project a reality.

– Bill Forry