6 Hill properties make City’s ‘distressed’ list

Six Mission Hill properties have made the City’s annual list of vacant and “distressed” properties.

The City’s 2013 “Distressed Buildings Report,” compiled by the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND), actually lists those six properties as being in Jamaica Plain. But that is wrong because DND continues to use an incorrect map of Boston neighborhoods rejected by most other City agencies—a map where Mission Hill doesn’t exist. The Gazette analyzed the addresses for the true number.

The report states that DND found 239 “distressed” buildings throughout the city, but it lists only 76 of them. DND spokesperson Lisa Pollack said that that list only contains privately-owned properties and that if DND “found a recent building permit or the owner has responded to our letter indicating a plan to sell the property, rehab it or otherwise address the problem,” the property was not posted.

DND defines “distressed” as any residential, commercial, industrial or mixed-use building that is “not occupied and has visible signs of physical distress (boarded, burned, open to the elements, or otherwise deteriorated.” DND excludes from the list sheds and garages on residential properties. DND acknowledges that it may miss some abandoned properties or incorrectly report buildings used for storage as abandoned.

The point of the survey is to target property owners in trouble and offer them help. DND and other City agencies provide advice on financing, renovating and marketing.

Six properties on the list are in the Mission Hill neighborhood—117 Heath St., 123-127 Heath St., 133 Halleck St., 6-12 Pontiac St., 1439 Tremont St. and 165 Terrace St.

The first two properties—117 Heath St. and 123-127 Heath St.—are being considered for redevelopment by Triad Alpha Partners, while 165 Terrace St. is a brick building at New Heath and Parker streets at the back of a New England Baptist Hospital parking lot.

The other properties are 133 Halleck St., a former brewery; 6-12 Pontiac St., a long-vacant commercial property; and 1439 Tremont St., a former auto body shop.

The report misreports the locations of many properties because it uses an incorrect Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) “planning district” map that erases several neighborhoods and draws wildly incorrect boundaries for others. Among other problems, the map places all of Mission Hill and the Longwood Medical Area in JP, while removing such areas as Forest Hills and Parkside from JP.

The BRA map was deliberately incorrect, created many years to make the analysis of census results faster, even though they were therefore wrong. The map then spread through various City agencies. After Gazette reporting on the issue, the BRA largely stopped using the incorrect map, and most City agencies have as well.

DND has used the incorrect map for Distressed Buildings Reports since the first one in 2001. The Gazette has repeatedly reported on the problem.

When asked why DND continues to use the incorrect map, Pollack said, “The answer is that we use planning district boundaries, as we have every year. We do this for the sake of consistency.”

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