Storm over Manning park hints at debate possible for whole $393.8M housing redo
The Cambridge Housing Authority is embarking on a huge construction project that will transform run-down low-income housing developments across the city. In at least one case, it has sparked neighborhood controversy.
Some Cambridgeport residents in private housing as well as tenants of Frank J. Manning Apartments, a 19-story public housing development for seniors and disabled tenants in the same neighborhood, are concerned about tentative plans to remove some trees and put in a driveway in a small park between the entrance to Manning and the Central Square library.
Manning is one of the developments to be extensively revamped, and the ripples over a small plaza are just one part of a gigantic construction effort expected to last for years. Manning, for example, will begin its $35 million construction project early next year and complete it in the summer of 2018, according to current plans presented to tenants for $393.8 million in public housing redevelopment to transform the authority’s entire portfolio of 2,900 units.
On paper, they will become private housing owned by nonprofit entities while under the authority’s control and management. Authority officials say tenants’ rent and rights won’t change, but with no hope of getting adequate help from the federal government, the authority says private financing is the only way to restore developments that have not been renovated for decades and keep the housing viable for the next 40 years.
A low-key, online tizzy ensued after a Manning resident posted an alert about the park plan on the listserve of the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association early this month, asking for help in blocking the proposal. Several other neighborhood residents, who don’t live in public housing, agreed the plan wasn’t a good idea.
CHA planning and development director Terry Dumas said there have been several versions of the plan for Manning and its entrance in the course of four meetings with tenants. The housing authority plans more meetings with Manning residents as well as with immediate neighbors, the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association, the Central Square Business Association and the Central Square Advisory Committee. Plans as well as construction mitigation will be discussed, she said. The Zoning Board of the Appeals and Planning Board will also be involved, Dumas said.
City councillor Marc McGovern, who often reads messages on the neighborhood association website, said he will keep track of the situation.
The park at issue is a small area off Franklin Street that is paved with bricks and has one long wood bench. It now has seven established trees and three smaller saplings. On a recent day it looked worn and neglected. An image of the area via Google Maps:
The latest renovation plan, presented to Manning residents Sept. 8, keeps three existing trees and another two trees will be planted, Dumas said.
The plan calls for a semi-circular driveway to the building entrance from Franklin Street, one of the neighborhood’s busier roadways. And there will be a second-floor terrace with seating on the roof of an overhang at the building’s front door.