Tenant activists from the South End's East Canton Street apartments successfully fought to preserve their housing as affordable in 2007. However, in 2020, just across the street from the East Canton Street apartments, arose The Smith, an 11 story, 300-unit ultra-luxury apartment building where the price of a 1-bedroom unit begins at around $3,800/month. A majority of the 30 “affordable” units require that applicants earn at least $59,000 a year to qualify for a 1-bedroom.
In addition to the existing building, The Smith developers William Gause and Leggat McCall plan to construct three more similarly sized towers along the block adjacent to the East Canton Street apartments in the coming years. The Smith is just one of many examples of the rampant luxury development occurring across Boston in general and throughout much of the South End specifically, which threatens to upend the diverse, working-class community that has long inhabited the neighborhood.
To preserve the historically diverse character of their South End neighborhood, East Canton Street tenants participated in nearly every community meeting throughout The Smith’s development process. Their organizing won a series of commitments from developers Gause and McCall, including promises to designate an acre of open space for a public park in between the first and second Smith buildings for use by community residents; ensure adequate parking options for East Canton Street tenants; preserve the historic tree canopy along East Canton Street; and designate 30 of The Smith’s first 300 units as affordable housing.
Yet these commitments have hardly been realized. Instead the promised “public park” is merely a concrete walkway lined with small trees. Developers destroyed the historic South End tree canopy along The Smith’s side of East Canton Street and damaged two trees on the side of the East Canton Street Apartments, necessitating their immediate removal. Parking remains a daily challenge for East Canton Street tenants, and although East Canton Street tenants are technically allowed to rent parking spaces in the The Smith’s “controlled access parking garage”, the price of doing so remains prohibitively expensive.
MAHT stands with East Canton Street tenants in their struggle to shape the future of their community.
East Canton Street in the News
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