Affordable housing and Chinatown library planned for Tremont Street land parcel

Boston Planning and Development Agency senior manager for disposition services Reay Pannesi led a meeting on the development of Parcel P-12C on Feb. 28 at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School. (Image courtesy of Shira Laucharoen.)

The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) held a community meeting on the development of Parcel P-12C on Feb. 28 at the Josiah Quincy School cafeteria. The plan from 288 Tremont Street Partners includes affordable housing and a permanent home for the Chinatown branch of the Boston Public Library.

“Our objective was to create a dense, mixed-use development on an underutilized parcel and create a vibrant streetscape on the ground level,” said BPDA senior manager for disposition services Reay Pannesi.

The project calls for 171 residential units that will be income restricted. According to the proposal, 45 rental units will be for households at 30-60 percent of area median income (AMI), while 126 homeownership units will be for households with an average AMI of 80 percent. The proposal calls for an expansion of the Doubletree Hotel owned by Corcoran Jennison and the Tufts Shared Services parking lot, which will acquire 262 new parking spaces. It will also create space for storefronts along Tremont Street, as well as a pedestrian plaza as an extension of Elliot Norton Park. While Chinatown currently houses a temporary library at the Chinatown Trade Center, the proposal suggests that a new branch be based at the Parcel P-12C location.

“The permanent home for the Chinatown branch of the BPL will help community to reclaim and reinforce the Chinatown identity along Tremont Street,” said Angie Liou, executive director of community developer Asian Community Development Corporation (ACDC).

The proposed project site, which is currently used as a surface parking lot, is located on Tremont Street and measures about 30,000 square feet. To the north is a Tufts Medical Center parking garage, the Doubletree Hotel to the south, and land owned by CJ Washington to the east. In planning the development of the space, ACDC held the “Chinatown Community Visioning for Parcel 12” in 2015. During 2017, the BPDA and the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services held public meetings and workshops to discuss a plan for the site.

Several attendees expressed concern that the housing would not truly be affordable, with only nine units being affordable to 30 percent AMI households. According to the United States Census Bureau, the average income for an Asian family in Chinatown in 2016 was $21,750.

Additionally, representatives from Friends of the Chinatown Library questioned whether the plan would provide adequate space for the new library, stating that 15,000 square feet is the minimum amount of room needed. The proposal designates 8,000 square feet.

The triangular land parcel is owned by the BPDA. Funds for the affordable units at Parcel P-12C come from the development on , a mixed-use skyscraper in Government Center undergoing review. The current proposal from 288 Tremont Street Partners is the only one received so far, after the BPDA put out a in 2017.

The meeting was the first time that 288 Tremont Street Partners’ proposal was openly introduced to the community. The BPDA will be comparing the merits of proposals by evaluating criteria such as development concepts, project affordability, and design. After review, the BPDA will recommend Tentative Designation for the Proponent with the most advantageous proposal for the project site.

Haley Auerbach of Millennium Partners introduced the proposal for the usage of the Parcel P-12C space. (Image courtesy of Shira Laucharoen.)

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