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Mayor Wu, Boston Housing Authority Celebate Major Upgrades To Historic Lenox Apartments In South End And Roxbury

by City of Boston
Thursday Apr 18, 2024

On Thursday, April 4, 2024, Mayor Michelle Wu joined the Boston Housing Authority, Beacon Communities and Roxbury and South End residents to celebrate the completion of significant upgrades to 285 affordable units at Lenox Apartments in the South End and Lower Roxbury.

The 13-building complex, a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, was originally constructed in 1939 as the first public housing in Boston that had been designated to housing Black Bostonians and later became a focal point for the push to desegregate public housing. The renovations mark the most significant upgrades since Lenox Street's construction, and ensure the preservation and long-term affordability of the community as quality family housing.

"The transformation of Roxbury's historic Lenox Apartments demonstrates our efforts of making sure Boston is an equitable, accessible city for all walks of life," said Mayor Michelle Wu. "We remain committed to preserving the history and character of this community as we invest in the well-being of Lenox residents."

The extensive upgrades to the community included brand new kitchens, bathrooms and in-unit washers and dryers. This major investment included the transformation of the community building which now includes a computer learning center, music room, fitness center, offices for management and the resident task force. In addition, accessibility, safety and security upgrades were made as well as overall ground improvements including a new playground, a children's water play area, and bike share stations.

"For nine decades, the Lenox community has served to anchor housing affordability for hundreds of families in the South End and Lower Roxbury," said BHA Administrator Kenzie Bok. "This project has not only given those families better homes and a better quality of life, it has honored the community's legacy by securing its future."

"We are grateful to our partners at the Boston Housing Authority for championing the preservation and renovation of 285 family apartments serving the Roxbury neighborhood," said Beacon CEO Dara Kovel. "This investment significantly improves the quality of these homes and ensures long-term housing affordability for generations to come."

Built in the late 1930s, Lenox was the first public housing in Boston authorized under federal policy to serve exclusively Black families, a designation that was challenged in the 1960s, when Melnea Cass, Boston chapter president of the NAACP, filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination citing Lenox as an example of segregation in public housing, leading ultimately to its formal desegregation in the 1980s. Lenox has nevertheless always celebrated the history of the African American community in Boston. Its interior landscaped courts were named in honor of prominent African American Bostonians, including William Monroe Trotter, founder of the Boston Guardian newspaper and Boston Equal Right League; Dr. Andrew B. Lattimore, a physician who practiced in the Lenox neighborhood; and Edward A. Ditmus, a distinguished veteran of the Civil War.

The community, management and maintenance space were reconfigured and fully renovated to include new amenities designed to promote health, learning and interaction. The landscaping-originally designed by the distinguished Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm was refreshed while continuing to honor the prominent Black Bostonians for whom the Lenox courtyards have been named.

"Congratulations to all the residents of Lenox Apartments who now have brand new apartment homes where they can live and prosper in the Roxbury community," said MassHousing CEO Chrystal Kornegay. "MassHousing was pleased to be a partner in this transformative effort by Beacon Communities and the Boston Housing Authority to improve and preserve this important affordable housing resource for many years into the future."

Funding for Lenox Apartments came together through a combination of federal and state LIHTC and historic tax credits. The Boston Housing Authority provided Section 8 Project Based Vouchers (PBV) in conjunction with MassHousing taxable and tax-exempt bond financing. Almost all units are restricted to households earning 50% Area Median Income (AMI) or below, making them deeply affordable.