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BHA breaks ground on new 115-unit affordable housing project on Marion Street

State and local officials pose at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Brookline Housing Authority Development at 32 Marion Street. Photo by Sam Mintz
May 2, 2024  Updated May 6, 2024 at 11:39 a.m.

State and town officials donned helmets and tossed dirt with ceremonial shovels on Tuesday at the site of a major new public housing project set to rise near Coolidge Corner in two years.

The new Brookline Housing Authority development at 32 Marion Street will include 115 units for low-income elderly and disabled residents. The six-story building will be the largest affordable housing development to be built in Brookline in over 50 years, and the BHA’s biggest new building since the 1960s. Using Section 8 vouchers, residents will not pay more than 30% of their income toward rent.

“This project checks so many boxes,” said Ed Augustus, the state’s housing secretary, at the groundbreaking. “Taking antiquated units and replacing them with more units, fully accessible, creating more opportunities for seniors and folks with disabilities to live in healthy, safe and dignified homes, which every single person in this Commonwealth deserves.”

The building is being constructed on the former site of the Colonel Floyd apartments, a 60-unit development built in the 1960s and demolished last year. Unlike the old building, which was a two-story walk up, the new development will be fully accessible, with two elevators.

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A rendering of the new building at 32 Marion Street. Photo courtesy of the Brookline Housing Authority

BHA has relocated most of the residents who lived at that property, and BHA Executive Cirector Michael Alperin says at least 22 households are planning to return to the new building. Those returning residents will get first priority in the building, which will include 6,000 square feet of common space and laundry facilities on every floor.

The project’s financing is as complicated as major public housing construction projects tend to be, but it faced an additional complication when Silicon Valley Bank collapsed in 2023. BHA had been working with the national bank as one of its financing partners.

“We didn’t know for two weeks if the project was going to happen or not,” said Alperin.

But local banks and a state organization “stepped up” as lenders, he said, including Rockland Trust, Eastern Bank and the Massachusetts Housing Partnership.

The $87 million project is also benefiting from $6.5 million from the town’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

Officials are proud of the project’s “passive house” status, an energy efficiency certification that is considered the gold standard for reducing energy demand and costs.

“This project is punk rock,” said State Rep. Tommy Vitolo, who helped pass legislation to allow the project to hire the right contractors to meet those energy efficiency goals. “Punk rock is all about being so cool it’s illegal. And it was not lawful to build this project the way it’s built. So what we did is we changed the law.”

The building is expected to be complete by the end of 2025, with new residents moving in by spring 2026.

Harry Friedman, a BHA resident, gave the closing remarks at the event.

“Right here, you are building a new opportunity for community, a new place to belong,” he said. “What I feel here today is gratitude for this assembly of individuals pressing and bending the future toward hope.”

The foundation is in place for the new Brookline Housing Authority development at 32 Marion Street. Photo by Sam Mintz