The facts about 900 Morrissey

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There’s more than a whiff of anti-immigrant nativism in the overblown reaction to the temporary housing of migrants in Boston and in the Commonwealth in recent days. Last week, the hysteria filtered into a Dorchester project that has nothing to do with the migrant crisis, but plenty to do with the brand of knee-jerk NIMBYism that has become the stock-and-trade of right-leaning pols and their media mouthpieces.

The former Comfort Inn hotel on Morrissey Boulevard was erroneously floated as a “potential” site for housing migrant families in a front-page Boston Herald story last week. In fact, the hotel is not being considered for migrant shelter needs at all – and the paper eventually changed its reporting. But that didn’t stop other unreliable online platforms from parroting the rumor-mill falsehood and, of course, feeding into the hysteria.

The 900 Morrissey project, as it has been dubbed by proponents, won city approvals last year after a sometime contentious review process that took half-a-year to resolve. This project has nothing to do with the migrant issue that’s currently centered at the Cass Community Center in Roxbury.

Here are the facts about the 900 Morrissey project, which is valued as a $49 million investment between the purchase and the build-out, as it stands today:

• The Comfort Inn has been closed for months. It is now owned by The Community Builders (TCB), a non-profit development firm that partnered with the Pine Street Inn to convert the old hotel into permanent supportive housing units.

• Once it is renovated, 99 senior citizens, many of them Dorchester residents, will move into compact studio units with kitchenettes and private bathrooms, where they can age in place and enjoy on-site wrap-around services provided by Pine Street employees. Tenants will be drawn from applicants who are age 62 and older and who are on the city of Boston’s “long-term-stayers list.”

• Renovation work at 900 Morrissey has not yet started, but it will soon. According to TCB, which has control of the site, the “windows and doors have been secured to prevent unauthorized entry,” and security patrols are on-site, actively maintaining clear sidewalks from snow and litter.

“Our commitment to being a good neighbor in the community remains steadfast,” a TCB spokesperson said in a statement.

What’s clear in talking to staff from both Pine Street Inn and TCB is that no one bothered to ask them before floating an unsubstantiated rumor to the Herald about the use of the building. Here’s the simple answer from TCB: “The 900 Morrissey site will be dedicated to urgently needed housing, not shelter.”

Most of the residents who’ll soon call Morrissey Boulevard home will leave scattered site apartments in three-deckers or other buildings, freeing up space for other people in need of safe, affordable living quarters. And the tenants at 900 Morrissey will join a community of people who can socialize together, connect for health and wellness programs, or simply for a cup of coffee with their new neighbors.

Converting the old Comfort Inn into homes for older people will be a win-win and it’s exciting to hear that there’s progress being made toward getting this project done.

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