5.2 min readBy Published On: August 11th, 2017Categories: News9 Comments on Looks like Old Harbor is getting a makeover!

On Friday it was announced that WinnDevelopment was selected by the Boston Housing Authority to redevelop the Mary Ellen McCormack (aka Old Harbor) Housing Development.  This  $1.6 billion renovation will add several thousand units and combine low-income tenants with new residents paying market rates.  The development could also possibly have retail and a supermarket as well.  The Boston Globe has an interesting article about the BHA getting private developers to foot the bill of renovating old public housing developments in exchange for building market-rate units within the development.  With real estate being so valuable in our neighborhood it will be interesting to watch was transpires in the future in regards to public housing in South Boston.  

Interesting fact: Did you know that the Mary Ellen McCormack is the oldest public housing development in the city?  It was built in the 1930’s.  See press release below:  

BOSTON – Friday, August 11, 2017 – WinnDevelopment Company, LP has been selected by the Boston Housing Authority to redevelop the first and one of the largest public housing developments in New England. Built in the 1930s, Mary Ellen McCormack (MEM) consists of 1,016 deeply subsidized apartments and row houses. The proposed plan will rebuild the site into a vibrant mixed-income community with a thoughtful design that embraces the existing residents and connects with the surrounding neighborhood.

“The Mary Ellen McCormack redevelopment effort is another example of our commitment to improving the quality of life for all Boston residents,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “As the oldest public housing development in the city, MEM marks an important piece of our history and also serves as a significant example of how important and needed our public housing communities are. We must preserve this resource, and I look forward to this development becoming an even better resource and home for many. “

The proposed redevelopment would take place over four phases, paying close attention to the needs and concerns of relocated residents. The current proposal calls for a total of approximately 3,000 new units, including replacement of all existing units, creation of workforce (middle-income) units, as well as market rate apartments and home ownership condominiums. In addition, all units, regardless of affordability level, will be of identical quality and integrated evenly among the newly constructed buildings.

“We are excited and pleased with the selection of WinnDevelopment, LP for Mary Ellen McCormack,” said Tenant Task Force Executive Director, Carol Sullivan. “They heard us and listened to our ideas about how to make our development better; we are excited about this partnership and BHA’s choice.”

The WinnDevelopment plan was one of five proposals that BHA received in response to a Request for Proposals for the redevelopment in South Boston. A selection committee comprised of residents of the Mary Ellen McCormack public housing development and BHA staff reviewed proposals and interviewed all teams that submitted proposals. The Winn team received high points from the selection committee for its demonstrated model for strong resident partnerships and robust resident services, items which are a priority for existing residents at the site. BHA and the developer will kick off the design process by holding a series of resident and community meetings In the near future.

“Mary Ellen is a community that is near and dear to me; in fact I call it home,” said BHA Administrator Bill McGonagle, who grew up in the development. “Preserving housing developments by creating partnerships with developers who understand the value of community is key to maintaining our housing stock in this city. I am pleased with the selection of Winn and look forward to working with the residents and the development team.”

As with previous BHA redevelopment efforts, residents will be offered relocation options that will include moves to other BHA public housing sites or Housing Choice/Section 8 vouchers.  Existing residents will have the right to return to the site after redevelopment.

“We are grateful for the chance to partner with the McCormack residents, the BHA and the City of Boston to redevelop this community into a first class mixed-income neighborhood,” said WinnCompanies CEO Gilbert Winn. “We recognize the property is old and therefore requires a major redevelopment effort. Our goal then, is to move through the formal approval process as quickly as possible while paying close attention to resident and community input.”

BHA issued the Request for Proposals (RFP) for redevelopment of the Mary Ellen McCormack site as part of a wider strategy to upgrade and make sustainable its affordable housing communities in the wake of historic federal budget cuts. The creation of additional market rate and workforce housing will also further Mayor Walsh’s goal of creating 53,000 new units of housing by 2030.

Prior to issuing the Mary Ellen McCormack RFP, BHA issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) in November 2014, asking the non-profit and for-profit development community for ideas about how to preserve public housing units with decreased reliance on federal public housing subsidy, which has been shrinking for many years. There is a copy of the RFQ and more information on the BHA’s funding situation in our Five-Year Plan on the BHA’s website.

About Boston Authority (BHA) 
Boston Housing Authority (BHA) provides affordable housing to more than 58,000 residents in and around the City of Boston. Residents are assisted through a combination of public housing and federal and state voucher subsidy programs that provide a wide variety of housing opportunities. As the largest public housing authority in New England, the BHA houses close to 9 percent of the city’s residents.

Our mission is to provide stable, quality affordable housing for low and moderate income persons; to deliver these services with integrity and mutual accountability; and to create living environments which serve as catalysts for the transformation from dependency to economic self-sufficiency.

About WinnDevelopment Company, LP
WinnDevelopment Company, LP is the development arm of award-winning multifamily property developer and manager WinnCompanies. It is a national leader in the development of middle-income/mixed use communities. WinnDevelopment is currently anticipating 20 new projects through 2018 and in addition, the company has recently completed 10 RAD conversions nationwide. They are among the industry leaders in navigating this complex process with HUD, local Housing Authorities, and residents. WinnDevelopment will supervise the development team for the redevelopment of Mary Ellen McCormack through site planning, securing entitlements, community outreach, and construction. WinnCompanies’ property management arm WinnResidential will oversee property management for the community.


  1. Typical Millenial August 11, 2017 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    The question is: Will the higher density of low-income housing turn away people that would pay a market rate?

    Why wouldn’t one pay the same market rate in a building that doesn’t carry the risks that a low-income housing brings along with it.

    There’s a reason no low-income / luxury condo hybrid buildings exist today aside from a small percentage that is mandated today (usually 1 or 2 units). Imagine having 50 low income housing units in your 200 unit building? Sounds like trouble to me.

    • Joe G August 11, 2017 at 6:03 pm - Reply

      Because you’re assuming that the fact that someone is low income, they’re “trouble”. What you fail to realize is that it’s not that low income individually are inherently “trouble”, it’s that when you put a large amount of low income together, problems arise. Those same low income individuals alone have no problems. Why is this? Well, when low income individuals reach a critical mass, problems start. The key is to find the correct and safe ration of low income to middle income that is still profitable, but not too much low income that problems start.

      We have enough data to figure this out. I can guarantee you that developers are not going to risk BILLIONS on putting the wrong ration, and artificially deflating the value of the market rate by having too many low income. It will work, it will shock people, and then suddenly we’ll all wonder why we put all the poor people together in large buildings, which only further held them down. Imagine having mental illness, or drug addiction, and the government putting you in a building where dealers are free to sell openly.

      Now imagine the government offering you rehab and surrounding you by middle class individuals. What do you think is going to happen? He/she is a lot more likely to keep clean and improve their lives.

      There is nothing inherently wrong with low income, and the sad truth is most of them ARE low income because they’re forced to live amongst low income.

      • Typical Millenial August 14, 2017 at 3:36 pm - Reply

        Joe G, you’re 100% correct. It’s much more nurture than nature, but where we are today is a neighborhood with high density low-income housing. Thus naturally fostering a more high-risk community, whether it’s the residents fault or not is another debate, but this is the current situation.

        It’s a very complicated fix today because it involves public funding and the high cost real estate environment we’re currently in. It’s not economically feasible to dismantle the current high-density situation and replace it with a lower density one. The city would have to take a hard line stance mandating (something like) 1 in every 5 units in a multifam must be HUD/Section-8 in order to make up for all of the lost units due to the proposed private redevelopment. Something that would be pushed back on very aggressively by the landlord community.

        It’s a difficult time to be a city planner, these day. Hat’s off to the people trying to make things happen between all the NIMBY’s and regulations.

  2. Old time SOUTHIE August 12, 2017 at 12:12 pm - Reply

    Joe G, sounds good “on paper” BUT I DON’T THINK SOMEBODY WITH 1 MILLION DOLLARS FOR A CONDO wants to live next to a single mom with NO FATHER and 2 children who’s on welfare. 3000 units of housing proposed and 600 units for welfare mothers with NO father’s .GOOD LUCK to the developers!

  3. Brian Smith August 12, 2017 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    It was a pleasure reading the generalization comments. I lived in Southie and broke my neck. Had a condo on Faragut, but lived on the 2nd floor. I started and ran a business, spent years in sales management, college educated and father to pre med student. I had to go to Arlington for housing. I would love to live in this new place ! My 5 year tab is up to 1.8 million. I survive because of Mass Health and medicare. I’m not a drug dealer or single mom.

  4. Greg August 14, 2017 at 12:49 am - Reply

    Old Colony, along East 8th, and Mary Ellen McCormack, across from the Little League fields, are two different projects.



  5. Old time SOUTHIE August 14, 2017 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    When was the last time you walked past the old harbor project? All I see is welfare mothers pushing FATHER less children around in baby carriages. It is VERY UFORUNATE about your situation, however I noticed before your accident you lived on FARTAGUT ROAD. I wonder if you would have sold your condo on FARAGUT ROAD and bought a condo in the new development ( next to the single , no husband welfare mommies)I DON’T THINK SO..

  6. Gail Nicholson August 14, 2017 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    I live on Ocallaghan Way now.I would hope they let us know well in advance as to what the hell is going to happen to us.Thank You

  7. Nancy Carter September 1, 2017 at 10:39 am - Reply

    My nephew was killed Vietnam. People in the Project s put a A Memorial on the wall of the Basketball Yard that faces the Project in his Memory. What will happen to it?.

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