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Mission Hill Residents Oppose Proposed Swap

By Chana R. Schoenberger

Residents of the Mission Hill public housing project are unhappy about a proposed land-swap deal that is part of the Boston Housing Authority's (BHA) plans for remodeling the complex, the Boston Globe reported this weekend.

Mission Hill, which hosts several Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) public service programs, is currently undergoing a $50 million renovation with a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Hope IV program.

BHA hopes to swap six acres of land with adjacent Wentworth Institute of Technology in order to facilitate the renovations.

According to PBHA student volunteers who work at the complex, the renovations are creating a sense of turmoil in the Mission Hill community.

"I know that a lot of tenants have been opposed to [the land swap]," said Naomi L. Seiler '97-'98, administrative director of the Mission Hill After School Program. "There's a general mistrust of what's going to happen."

The new Mission Main housing project will also incorporate middle-income housing in addition to the low-income units now located in the complex.

However, fewer low-income residents will be able to live in the new development.

Although the BHA received the Hope IV grant in 1993, construction on the new buildings--which will completely replace the old structures--did not start until this year.

Many residents will move either to other parts of the housing project or to private housing during the renovation.

"Because of the Hope IV changes, a lot of parents are moving to other developments," said Michael S. Boyce '99, who coordinates activities for the Mission Hill After School Program's eight to 10-year-olds.

According to Seiler, the renovation is designed to reinvigorate Mission Hill, both through physical features such as semi-private stairwells and yards and through enhanced social services.

Several of the PBHA programs which work out of Mission Hill--including the After School Program and Partnership for Empowering Neighborhoods--receive funding from the BHA under the Hope IV grant.

Boyce sees his program, which includes about 60 school-age Mission Hill residents and about 120 PBHA volunteers, as a "stabilizing factor" for the children, especially during the transitional renovation period.

"It's something one of our directors said once," he said. "We're often the day care, not just a program the kids like to go to."

"Our goal with the program is to help make the transition for the children and the families as seamless as possible," said Lauren L. Kramer-Dover '98, the After School Program's clientele director. "We want to at least be a source of consistency for the children and the families."

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