Restoration of Allen Street house helps South Central neighborhood

Once a decaying eyesore, a historic building on Allen Street is now an attractive gateway to the South Central neighborhood and provides 12 affordable apartments.
“We’re very happy, pleased and proud of this building. We think it will have a huge impact in the neighborhood,” said Ed Allard, project director at Community Action for Better Housing (CABH) that helped develop the Oscar Romero House, where a celebratory ribbon cutting was held Tuesday.
The house is named for a prominent bishop in El Salvador who defended the poor and spoke out against injustice but was assassinated while celebrating Mass in 1980.
The bright yellow building at 8 Allen St. is a positive sign for the city and the people it will soon house, said representatives from Catholic Social Services, which will manage the property.
“It was quite an eyesore,” said Arlene McNamee, executive director of CABH that eyed the previously vacant mixed-use building for years. They have already received 104 applications for the upcoming lottery.
Tenants will pay between 30 and 50 percent of their income, with the percentage varying based on the size of the household.
The project took more than nine months to complete and cost $2.8 million. It is a mix of studios, one- and two-bedroom units, all equipped with spacious closets, modern bath and kitchen, multiple windows, many with original details and eaves around them.
It is a landmark project in terms of public and private partnerships creating affordable housing, historic preservation and economic development, officials said.
“This is terrific,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell. “It’s something only possible through collective effort and something we need to replicate citywide.”
It is always difficult to renovate an old building and make sure it is historically preserved, but Michael Murray, president of Waterfront Historic Area LeaguE (WHALE), said he was proud to be able to do it and called the end result “phenomenal.”
A neighbor on Allen Street for 31 years, Maria Freitas said she was worried the old building was coming down when the work began.
She is glad that the city took something that “looked terrible” and made it into something that “looks great.”
“We appreciate this,” she said. “It cleaned up the street.”
That’s just what officials said they hope it will do — foster pride, encourage other properties to improve and start a domino effect in neighborhood improvements.
A day after the bombings at the Boston Marathon, Regional Administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Barbara Fields said she could not think of a better project to celebrate.
“We will not allow evil to triumph because of the work we are doing here today,” she said.
By Auditi Guha
April 17, 2013 12:00 AM
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