HYM Investment Group, My City at Peace to turn Roxbury lot into science complex, housing, more


A rendering of the P3 Roxbury project led by Rev. Jeffrey Brown and HYM Investment Group CEO Tom O’Brien. The complex will include affordable housing, a museum space, storefronts and more. Photo courtesy of the DREAM Collaborative.

Jane Clements, news correspondent

A 7.7-acre site across from the Boston Police headquarters in Roxbury is set to become a multi-use complex complete with affordable housing, a museum space, storefronts and facilities for life science research.

After receiving unanimous approval from the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee, the P3 Roxbury project spearheaded by Rev. Jeffrey Brown and HYM Investment Group CEO Tom O’Brien will work to create a set of buildings that developers expect will generate wealth for the Roxbury community. 

“We shared the vision of Roxbury being a place where we can begin to turn around this bleed that has occurred through gentrification into an opportunity for building wealth for Black and brown families,” Brown told The News.

The designated location is currently an empty lot surrounded by a chain-link fence. The lot, called Parcel 3, or P3, has been vacant since the 1970s when the state tried to incorporate it into its planned extension of Interstate 95. Publicly owned for around 30 years, many developers have submitted plans for the site, including proposals to turn the site into a mall and a BJ’s Wholesale Club. 

Four years ago, Brown began initial discussions with HYM Investments CEO Thomas O’Brien about turning Parcel 3, one of the last big parcels in the City of Boston, into a modern, community-oriented building complex. Brown, the co-founder of My City at Peace and an anti-violence leader in the community for nearly 30 years, said inspiration for the project first came to him after a 2015 report from the Boston Fed reminded him of Boston’s dramatic wealth inequalities. 

“The Boston Fed report showed the relative wealth of white families in Boston at $247,500 and the relative wealth of Black families at $8,” Brown said. “It occurred to me that one of the things that leads to a sustainability of peace is a changing of the structures within a community.”

During his conversations with O’Brien, Brown noticed that O’Brien had a similar historical knowledge about the effects of redlining and housing discrimination within Boston. 

“As people recognize the attributes of Roxbury, there are now processes of gentrification happening in the area. So the question is, ‘Can we defend Roxbury for the people who have been long term residents of Roxbury?’” O’Brien said. “Our vision was that we should use P3 to create a subsidy that would allow us to create homeownership for people of color who live in Roxbury.”

When they thought of industries that have been typically inaccessible to communities of color, the pair came up with the unique idea of building life science facilities on the same lot as the affordable housing units. These proposed life science facilities at the site would generate an approximate $124 million cross subsidy that would be reinvested directly into on-site affordable housing, Brown and O’Brien said. 

Brown pointed out that many starting jobs in the life science industry require specialized training, as opposed to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, making them more accessible to high school graduates who cannot afford the increasing cost of a college education. He and O’Brien are hopeful that having a life science facility in Roxbury will spur job creation for residents. 

“We’re hoping to build all kinds of pipelines for residents because we want them to understand the value of life sciences as a profession,” Brown said. “Given how close we are to Madison Park High School, we also want more students to get involved so they can enter this field that will soon be right at their doorstep.”

With these overarching goals in mind, the pair went to work, hiring a team of corporate and nonprofit partners to execute their plan and contribute their own ideas for wealth generation in the community. They hired DREAM Collaborative, a minority-owned architecture firm in Boston, to design the 1.2-million-square-foot complex and brought in the Onyx Group to develop the retail and commercial spaces.

Once the effort was in full force, the team attended community meetings, spoke to social groups and called local officials to garner enthusiasm for their plan. The proposal soon received the support of every local elected official in the greater Roxbury area.  

“You could tell how passionate everyone was about the project, how much they believed in it and how much thought and intention went behind every detail,” said a spokesperson for HYM Investments.  

Uniquely structured as a 50-50 joint venture between HYM Investment Group and My City at Peace, the project is set to include many firsts for the Roxbury community and the City of Boston, according to developers. It will include the first life science facility in Roxbury, the first Black-owned and operated parking structure in the City of Boston and the city’s first cross-subsidy plan between the life science and housing industries. 

Brown said he is most excited for the 31,000 square feet of museum and community space being allocated for King Boston, an organization that supports Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy in Boston. Brown serves as the co-chair of King Boston and said he believes that with a new home the organization could do even more for underrepresented communities in Boston. 

“Boston has been yearning for a cultural event space for people of color for quite some time,” Brown said. “We’re hoping that through King Boston, P3 is going to be an alive and vibrant gateway into the richness that is Roxbury.”

The most recent step forward for the project came Oct. 3 when the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee unanimously voted to recommend the proposal to the Boston Planning and Development Agency, or the BPDA. The second team vying for the recommendation, Tishman Speyer and Ruggles Progressive Partners, dropped their bid days before the vote. 

Inspired by the enthusiastic stamp of approval, the team is gathering even more community input while they wait for approval for the plans from BPDA, which could take up to 12 months, Brown said. 

Initial ideas for retail spaces include a performance venue within the King Boston center, a farmer’s market to bring fresh produce closer to Roxbury residents and various minority-owned retail stores looking for a bigger storefront location. To prepare residents for the completion of the affordable housing units, Brown plans to host homeownership classes through My City at Peace. While these ideas are in their early stages, Brown and O’Brien remain committed to correcting discrimination within Boston’s history through P3.

“This can be seen as a way of social repair within the community as a result of the historical racial discrimination around housing over decades,” Brown said.