In early February, a Roxbury Project Review Committee (PRC) voted unanimously to endorse Melnea Partners, including NADAAA, for the development of a City lot known as “Parcel 9.”
The mandate for the development was given by the 2004 Roxbury Master Plan, which called for projects that enabled wealth generation for the local community, honored a commitment to local and minority hiring, and provided both affordable and market-rate housing. The November 2011 decision to move the Boston School Department to the renovated Ferdinand Building in Dudley Square reflected the Plan’s foundational belief that land use and quality of life must be considered in terms of neighborhood economic benefit.
In addition to a credible financial plan, the three contenders for the development of Parcel 9 were required to project numbers of full-time jobs. During the public review process, teams were rarely questioned about design, and instead asked to specify salary ranges, community job prospects, and number of market-rate vs. low-income housing units. All teams had complicated financial models that included New Market Tax Credits, a federal incentive program offering tax credits to investors.
Within this discussion, NADAAA’s design for the Melnea Hotel + Residences presented itself as transformative. The 160-room hotel and 52 apartments were raised on a landscaped platform with views to the City. The ground floor, penetrable at many points, linked Dudley Square with Ramsey Park by means of a jazz club, restaurant, fitness center, and community hall. Renderings featured the structure’s dynamic form, pedestrians and cyclists traversing the site, convenient public transportation access, and active storefronts.
The Melnea team- architects, urban designers, developers, and community members- considered “shared value,” a concept described by economist Michael Porter as going beyond the success of a single venture to create societal benefit. Designers stressed the need for vibrancy and positive environmental impact, developers considered tenants and ROI’s, and members of the community researched career “ladder opportunities” for community low-skilled workers.
After the PRC announced support for the Melnea Hotel + Residences, The Bay State Banner quoted co-chair Jorge Martinez, “This will be a huge economic engine for the community … (I) can’t wait” for the development to begin. The Melnea team enjoyed the levity of celebration, but understood the real work has yet to begin.