Following negotiations with City Councilor Mike Ross and state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez, the owner of 75 St. Alphonsus St. has agreed to maintain 13 units as affordably-priced for another 15 years.
The retail apartment tower will also see five ground-floor units converted to offices targeted at local businesses. And its population of undergraduate students has dropped significantly.
“We realized that this is a major issue for [Councilor Ross] and the community, and agreed to do it,” said Louis Miller, the attorney for property owner Equity Residential.
Negotiations among Ross, Sánchez and Equity started about a year ago, right as Equity was finalizing its purchase of the building, Ross said.
“On one level, I was very pleased that a national company was interested in Mission Hill. It speaks volumes of the strength of our neighborhood,” Ross told the Gazette. “But I was concerned Equity wasn’t working with us on the simplest of requests,” namely, maintaining the affordable units as such and committing to lowering the percentage of undergraduate student tenants.
“When they first came into the neighborhood, [Equity] told us we could go fly a kite,” Sánchez said.
At the time of Equity’s purchase of the building, 75 percent of its tenants were undergraduate students, which were the “cause of many police visits and nighttime disturbances,” Ross said.
Following an Equity request to the city Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to approve the conversion of five ground-level vacant units to office space in December, however, Ross and Sánchez had the leverage they needed.
They would not support the project until Equity agreed to extend the affordability deadline. The ZBA was persuaded to defer its vote on the project twice while Ross, Sánchez and Equity hammered out the details.
Last month, Equity finally agreed to extend the affordability of 13 units for another 15 years. They had also shown that their undergraduate occupancy rate had dropped to 25 percent in the year they’d owned the building.
“We finally worked out this compromise, which I think is great,” Ross said.
“Equity now has an understanding that Mission Hill expects constructive dialogue on affordable housing,” Sánchez said. “I hope we’re able to do more in the future.”
After the conversion work is completed, the building will have 290 units, 13 of which will remain affordable, and five office spaces. A construction schedule has not yet been set, Miller said.