Delayed by the Pandemic, Grand Opening Finally Held for Hattie Kelton Apartments

More than two dozen of activist Hattie Kelton’s extended family members, some of whom came from across the country, gathered at the Hattie Kelton Apartments at 61 Heath St. on July 17 to celebrate the grand opening of the 47 unit affordable housing building.

State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, State Rep. Nika Elugardo, and City Councilor Matt O’Malley were also in attendance.

“Today we are very happy to be finally celebrating the completion of the Hattie Kelton Apartments,” said JPNDC Board Co-Chair John Fitzgerald.

“It started more than 20 years ago with a community planning process about how do we claim by and for the community dozens of vacant lots in this neighborhood, after a history of unwelcome institutional expansion, arson, and dumping.”

Hattie Kelton, who passed away in 1998, lived at the Mildred C. Hailey apartments (then called Bromley-Heath) when she moved to Boston from Virginia in 1954, then moved to Lawn St. after her husband passed away in 1967, according to the JPNDC. She co-founded the Martha Eliot Health Center, as well as a founding member of the Back of the Hill Community Development Corporation.

 “Hattie spent countless hours doing everything from meeting with neighbors and elected officials to marching and picketing in Boston and as far away as the White House,” according to the JPNDC.

The event was delayed a year because of the pandemic, but 47 families were officially welcomed into their units as part of the celebration. Construction was completed in December of 2019, and residents were selected via a lottery organized by the City. Residents began moving into their units in the spring of last year.

The Hattie Kelton Apartments were developed by the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) in partnership with the Back of the Hill Community Development Corporation.

The units are between 0 and 70% of the Area Median Income, and the 47 units are comprised  of 14 three-bedroom units, 22 two bedroom units, and 11 one bedroom units. The apartments are located a quarter mile away from the Jackson Square T station, and the units were constructed according to LEED and Energy Star standards, according to a press release from JPNDC.

There are two units for clients of the Mass. Dept. of Developmental Services, and five units for formerly homeless individuals along with resident services.

The building also features a community room and 20 parking spaces.

“Displacement and gentrification had to go through Miss Hattie…and it is such a wonderful legacy to see her here recognized today for her work,” Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz said at the celebration, “and I want to see more and more women of color lifted up and celebrated in this way over the years in the community.”

State Rep Nika Elugardo said that “Miss Hattie is a legend in this neighborhood that I have the joy of representing…celebrating Miss Hattie is celebrating the heritage and soul of Mission Hill, which is embodied in you all, embodied in the family, embodied in the elected officials.”

The event culminated in a ribbon cutting with Hattie Kelton’s family members, elected officials, and project partners, as well as a presentation of the plaque that will hang in the apartment building lobby. Other speakers included Dan Rivera, President and CEO of MassDevelopment, Richard Giordano of the Back of the Hill CDC, resident leader Willie Mitchell, and Andrew Earl Kelton, Jr.

“Every time we hand someone the keys to a beautiful new home, it’s one small victory,” JPNDC CEO Teronda Ellis said in a statement. “It’s tremendously gratifying to know that 47 families who are priced out of Boston’s housing market are making their home here in Jamaica Plain because of the Hattie Kelton Apartments.”

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