Scape North America recently scrapped plans for a dormitory-style development in the Fenway and is proposing 220 units of income-restricted housing at 2 Charlesgate West. Image courtesy of Scape North America

As the Fenway, Chinatown and South End continue to face gentrification and housing displacement pressures, contributions from four private developers could deliver more than 700 new income-restricted housing units in coming years. 

Boston-based Scape North America unveiled plans this month for a 220-unit all-affordable housing tower at 2 Charlesgate West, part of a three-building development plan in the Fenway.  

If approved, the building would exceed Scape’s obligations under Boston’s inclusionary development policy (IDP) to create affordable units, while adding 922 market-rate apartments in two towers at 1252-1270 Boylston St. and 819 Beacon St. 

Scape revised the plans following community opposition and questions about zoning compliance at its first development site, a dormitory-style tower at the Boylston Street property. Occupancy would have been restricted to tenants affiliated with a local educational institution, and units would have included shared kitchens. 

And if classified as a dorm by the city’s Department of Inspectional Services, it would have been exempt from the city’s IDP policy. 

“They said they always intended to do some sort of affordable housing, but never really articulated it in their proposal,” BPDA Project Manager Tim Czerwienski told Banker & Tradesman. “It was a big critique that people had, and one of the drivers to the changes.” 

In community meetings, neighborhood residents asked that the project incorporate housing for families, to offset the influx of off-campus renters displacing permanent residents. 

The Boylston Street complex also would have faced steeper permitting hurdles. Dorms are a forbidden use under Fenway neighborhood zoning, so the Scape project would have required variances and conditional use permits from the Boston zoning board of appeals. 

Scape confirmed that the redesign of 1252-1270 Boylston St. eliminates shared areas in units, but referred other questions to its public BPDA filings. The Charlesgate West tower would create more affordable units in a single building than have been built under the IDP policy in the Fenway in two decades, Scape North America CEO Andrew Flynn stated. The building also would contain a podium level with 165 units designated for use by a local college or institution. 

A ‘Coherent’ Vision for Three Development Sites 

After kicking off permitting for 1252-1270 Boylston St. in April, Scape’s horizons widened to incorporate two other sites in the Fenway, part of the company’s announced plans for a $1 billion local development pipeline. 

Because its 100 Shawmut building won’t include affordable units, The Davis Cos. paid $15 million up-front to the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association to support a 285-unit housing project at 50 Herald St. that could include at least 26 percent affordable units. Image courtesy of The Architecture Team and The Davis Cos.

Scape bought 2 Charlesgate West from Trans National Properties, and has an agreement with Children’s Hospital to acquire a parking lot at 819 Beacon St. 

The Beacon Street parcel would be developed with 445 apartments and 50 units for Children’s Hospital patients’ families, replacing a 2013 approval for a 425,000-square-foot office building for Children’s Hospital. 

Having two other sites in permitting gave Scape more flexibility to comply with the IDP, which enables developers to build off-site affordable housing if they don’t include income-restricted units in a multifamily project. 

“BPDA wanted Scape to present as coherent as possible what it is they planned for these three properties,” BPDA Housing Policy Manager Tim Davis said. 

Alternatively, developers can pay a fee – ranging from $200,000 to $380,000 per unit depending upon the neighborhood – to a city fund that contributes to affordable housing projects. 

Known as The Ipswich, the Charlesgate West property would deliver 220 affordable units, or 20 percent of the overall units in the three buildings, exceeding the IDP’s 18 percent requirement. 

Multi-Parcel Approach Brings Flexibility 

Scape North America plans to build The Ipswich itself rather than partnering with an affordable housing specialist, an unusual but not unprecedented arrangement, according to BPDA officials. 

In Allston, developer Dinosaur Capital Partners is satisfying the IDP requirement for a 211-unit apartment complex at 1550 Soldiers Field Road with a 38-unit income-restricted condo building across the street at 21 Soldiers Field Place. 

But more often, private, for-profit developers partner with nonprofits and community development corporations that specialize in piecing together public financing sources to subsidize affordable projects. 

That’s the route being taken by The Davis Cos. of Boston at its 100 Shawmut luxury condo project under construction in the South End. 

Steve Adams

The Davis Cos. partnered with the owners of two neighboring properties, the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association and the Boston Chinese Evangelical Church, to obtain BPDA approval under a planned development area granting additional density. 

Because the 100 Shawmut building won’t include affordable units, The Davis Cos. paid $15 million up-front to the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association to support plans for a 285-unit housing project at 50 Herald St. that could include at least 26 percent affordable units. The CCBA will retain ownership of its parcel, currently occupied by C-Mart grocery. 

“Taking a multi-parcel approach, you can bring different types of capital into the different parts of the development,” said Stephen Davis, managing director of development for The Davis Cos. “It’s a different way of leveraging your own private capital by incorporating other sources. It’s super-difficult to do that in a single building.” 

CCBA President Paul Chan said The Davis Co. contribution will pay for approximately 35 affordable units, with another 85 developed with other affordable housing financing sources. 

 In Chinatown, Boston-based Asian Community Development Corp. is using a $15 million contribution from Millennium Partners as the cornerstone of its parcel P-12C housing development at 290 Tremont St. 

Millennium designated the Asian CDC as its IDP recipient for its $1.3 billion Winthrop Square skyscraper, which will include 500 market-rate luxury condos. 

Asian CDC is seeking low-income tax credits and city of Boston housing subsidies to round out the estimated $89 million financing package for a 152-unit apartment and condo tower project, Executive Director Angie Liou said. The agency is targeting a summer 2021 groundbreaking. Its last major development, One Greenway, received approximately 6,000 applications for 146 income-restricted condos and apartments. 

And the $525 million redevelopment of the Motor Mart Garage in Back Bay will provide financial support for a planned 85-unit affordable housing complex in Chinatown. 

Developers CIM Group and Boston Global Investors have designated the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Assoc. and Beacon Communities as recipient of their off-site affordable housing contribution. The two groups are in BPDA permitting for an 85-unit affordable apartment complex at 288 Harrison Ave., with units reserved for households earning 60 percent or less of the area median income. 

New Routes to Affordability in the Fenway

by Steve Adams time to read: 4 min