The Origin of the MHNHS
For nearly five decades MHNHS has been a force in the struggle to preserve a vital urban neighborhood. Mission Hill is a centrally located, diverse, residential neighborhood with a healthy economic base where people share a strong sense of community.
During the 1960’s and in the early 1970’s the major problem facing Mission Hill neighborhood was institutional expansion. Residents perceived the “institutions’ master plan” as “to buy and take over the residential neighborhood”. Due to this threat and uncertainty in the neighborhood, existing homeowners were unable to secure home improvement loans and mortgages. Residents not only saw their neighborhood rapidly shrinking but they saw it slowly decaying. Under these dramatic conditions the neighborhood organized itself to address these problems.
Effective community organizing led by neighborhood residents resulted in a number of newly formed community organizations implementing solutions to reclaim their neighborhood. The birth of Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services in 1975 was the result of this effort. MHNHS was charged with providing programs and services that would reverse the economic decline and revitalize the neighborhood.
In support of MHNHS’s community revitalization, stabilization and development goals, MHNHS has in its 48 year history secured and invested over $100 million of private and public funding in Mission Hill. MHNHS has provided technical and financial assistance to over 2,000+ low and moderate income tenants and homeowners, made over $2 million in home improvement loans from the Revolving Loan Fund Program to 200 homeowners unable to obtain conventional financing, assisted 150 first-time homebuyers secure home purchase financing, developed 5 deteriorated multi-family properties into 117 units of affordable rental housing for families and elders. MHNHS completed the largest mixed-use commercial, retail and open space project in the City of Boston neighborhood in over two decades – the Kevin W. Fitzgerald Park and the One Brigham Circle development.
The origin of Mission Hill is best described by the Boston Landmarks Commission brochure titled Exploring Boston’s Neighborhoods – Mission Hill.
“Mission Hill’s name reflects two of the most important facets of the area. The neighborhood is built on historic Parker Hill, a rocky drumlin left behind by a prehistoric glacier. People began referring to the area as Mission Hill rather than Parker Hill after the construction of the Mission Church complex at the end of the 19th century. Originally a section of the independent town of Roxbury, Mission Hill became part of Boston when Roxbury was annexed to the city in 1868. It has grown from a farming area into an ethnically diverse urban neighborhood with important religious, medical and educations institutions.”
From this beginning Mission Hill developed as a residential area at the turn of the century with the construction of Boston style triple-decker housing throughout the neighborhood. The original German settlers, soon to be joined by Irish immigrants, worked in the local factories and breweries. Soon after many of Boston’s hospitals moved into the neighborhood forming what is today the Longwood Medical Area.
Mission Hill is a one square mile neighborhood located approximately one mile from Boston’s downtown business district. Approximately three quarters of the neighborhood is residential made-up of privately owned one to three family buildings and a number of multi-family buildings built from 1940s through the1960s. The Longwood Medical Area (LMA) makes up the other one quarter of the neighborhood. Within the LMA are 21 institutions focusing on health care, research, education and cultural activities. These institutions are responsible for the largest concentration of jobs in City of Boston outside of the central business district employing 37,000 people with more than 52,000 people working or studying in the LMA on a typical weekday.
Mission Hill’s population of 18,722 people is racially and economically diverse. The median household family income is $27,371. The poverty rate of this area is 40.9%. The median household income in Mission Hill is $26,120 and the unemployment rate for the neighborhood is 7.4%. The Mission Hill population is 34.7% African American, 39.6% White, 24.6% Latino, and 9.7% Asian, making it far more racially diverse than any other neighborhood in Boston.
Over the last forty-seven years, the neighborhood’s residential area has been solidified and expanded through the efforts of a number of resident driven neighborhood initiatives including Roxbury Tenants of Harvard, Mission Main Tenant Task Force, Alice Taylor Tenant Task Force and the Back of the Hill Community Development Corporation. These organizations are responsible for over 2000 new or rehabbed housing units in Mission Hill.
With the completion of One Brigham Circle, MHNHS has transformed a once blighted property and parcel into Mission Hill’s shopping and neighborhood center.
Community Organizing and Planning
In the late 1980s through the mid 1990s MHNHS addressed the need to increase retail services in the neighborhood. Starting first with the health of the commercial district that serves the neighborhood at Brigham Circle, MHNHS secured control of the Ledge Site, a major underutilized site in Brigham Circle, facilitating an ambitious 2 year community planning process that created the neighborhood’s redevelopment vision for the commercial heart of Mission Hill. In the mid-1990s MHNHS assembled the development team to implement One Brigham Circle.
In 1999 MHNHS addressed the need to revitalize an underutilized and threaten area of our neighborhood by conducting the Terrace Street Corridor Planning Initiative. This initiative created an economic development Plan. MHNHS continues to promote development of private and publicly owned in this area of the neighborhood that is consistent with this Plan.
Today our focus is to implement a planning and development process for Parcel 25, a 2.5 acre parcel across from Roxbury Crossing MBTA Station. This site has been vacant and blighted for over 30 years. Parcel 25 is a critical development site that should be envisioned as an opportunity to rebuild and strengthen the Roxbury Crossing area of Mission Hill. MHNHS kicked off its comprehensive community planning process in the summer of 2004. MHNHS has been selected to redevelop Parcel 25 and is currently in the development process.
Economic Development, Job Creation, and Open Space
In 2003 MHNHS, with its joint venture partners, implemented the One Brigham Circle development at the Ledge Site. One Brigham Circle is the first major new construction mixed-use property to be developed in a Boston neighborhood commercial district in decades. The neighborhood’s $48 million One Brigham Circle development creates needed neighborhood retail services, new business and employment opportunities, a “town center”, and a 5.5 acre passive park, the Kevin W. Fitzgerald Park. One Brigham Circle offers employment opportunities for over 200 employees and a variety of shopping opportunities. Current retail stores include a Stop & Shop Supermarket, Walgreens Drugstore, TGI Friday’s Restaurant, Bank of America, Citizens Bank, JP Licks Ice Cream Cafe, and H&R Block. Partners HealthCare occupies the office space for administrative uses for 500 employees. Over 100 jobs were created during the construction of One Brigham Circle. When it was conceived, the vision for One Brigham Circle at the Ledge Site was a bold plan, perhaps even an impossible dream. Today, the neighborhood vision is a reality.