A Look Back: Mission Main Sets Affordable Housing Example

A shining star in the WinnCompanies portfolio is the redevelopment of Mission Main, a former public housing development in Boston’s Mission Hill neighborhood. Arthur Winn and his development team were pioneers in their effort to actively involve the residents throughout the process and ensure all their needs were met while inspiring them to help in the creation of a safe community. Together Arthur, his partners, and the tenants were able to successfully implement Boston’s first HOPE VI development.

Twenty-five years ago, this development was one of the most troubled and crime-ridden of Boston Housing Authority (BHA) properties. Originally completed in 1940, Mission Main was a “superblock” of three 38-story structures. There was little parking and maintenance issues abounded.

At that time, both the Mission Main community and city officials knew it was important and urgent to positively change the community. In 1993, the BHA applied for and received a federal HOPE IV funding award,. The BHA put out an RFP and established goals for the redevelopment. In an unusual compromise sparked by Winn’s tremendous and deep working relationship with the tenants, the city ultimately settled on two developers to execute the development as a team:  Edward A. Fish and Associates, and the tenants’ choice, WinnDevelopment. Mr. Winn spent countless hours and devoted his company’s resources and reputation to engage the residents in the process and promote their ideas and desires regarding, design, safety, community services, affordability and operations.  Together, he knew they could achieve great things.

To assuage resident fears of being removed from their homes during redevelopment, the construction was completed in three phases to minimize resident displacement. The Mission Main Tenant Task Force was an active partner of Winn’s throughout the development process. Long time tenants spoke to Arthur’s commitment to hearing the needs of residents while never dismissing or devaluing them due to their economic situation. Respect and empowerment were key factors to the success of Mission Main. Arthur’s involvement with the Task Force helped establish the organization as an influential force in the neighborhood.

Rebuilding the Mission Main community went beyond the renovations to the physical structure. Arthur worked with the community to establish a new nonprofit entity known as the Mission Main Resident Services Corporation (MMRC). This organization was founded under the HOPE VI program to implement support services to strengthen the community. From after-school programs for the young to support services for the elderly, every resident had the services necessary to thrive. 

Upon completion in 2002, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez cited the project as an “example of the type of housing we would like to see across the country.” Mission Main is now comprised of 535 units of rental housing, with 83 percent public housing tax credit units at 17 percent market rate units. The community is at a much smaller scale, with walkable streets, green spaces, and enough parking for residents. This community is located near some of Boston’s great institutions, including world-class hospitals and higher education institutions.

“Working with the tenants at this troubled project in Mission Hill 20 years ago, we could only imagine the transformation this neighborhood could achieve, “ said Arthur Winn. “Our partnership with the city, the residents and Ed Fish, has been truly rewarding when you look at it today and see the results of this safe, quality affordable housing community inside of a revitalizing Mission Hill neighborhood.”