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Luxury project seen as forerunner of lower-cost Copley area housing

A luxurious, $11 million cooperative apartment complex, scheduled to open next spring near Copley Square, has become a symbol of hope for low- and moderate-income people.

Scheduled to open in March or April 1985, The Residences of Copley Place is the housing component and final project of the $500 million Copley Place development over the Massachusetts Turnpike in downtown Boston.

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Leaders of the ''Tent City'' movement, now the Tent City Corporation, once opponents of Copley Place, see the rising co-op as a step toward helping ''displaced tenants'' in the community find housing. They say they are still seeking to develop their own neighboring project of 304 ''very much needed'' units in the Back Bay and South End communities.

With 26 of the 104 units in the new apartment complex available to low- and moderate-income groups, Melvin H. King, a founder, and Joan Tighe, board chairman of Tent City Corporation, say they see ''a beginning of action in our behalf.''

''We are living up to our commitment with the city of Boston and with residents of the Back Bay and South End communities,'' says Andrew Warner, director of sales of United Development Consulting Corporation, the management agency for The Residences.

That commitment, he says, is to provide 25 percent of any housing built on Copley Place to low- and moderate-income senior citizens and families.

The opening of The Residences ''is arriving just in time to keep our community people from seeing themselves as future displaced persons, although many are long-term settlers,'' says Mel King, who lives a block from the new structure.

Community people are becoming ''ousted tenants,'' because property values are rising swiftly with the opening of Copley Place last February, says Mr. King, a community activist who ran for mayor of Boston in 1983.

''Absentee and resident owners alike are waiting for the right price to sell or convert into condominiums and capitalize on higher real estate values,'' says King, a homeowner in the area. ''This means 'out' for many low income people. I, myself, have no plans to move away or sell.''

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Also concerned is Ms. Tighe, who lives in the vicinity, too. The Tent City Corporation, which she heads, sought to have its own proposal of 304 units included as part of the Copley Place development in 1980. She says the cost of housing - rental and owner - is skyrocketing so much that residents of the Back Bay and South End communities may be forced to move out because they can't afford the neighborhood.

''Our Tent City proposal (25 percent low income, 50 percent moderate income, and 25 percent market rate) can help our community retain its income, and ethnic-racial mix,'' says Ms. Tighe.

Copley Place, a 9.5-acre project built with land and air rights over the Massachusetts Turnpike, is the largest (3.7 million square feet of building area) and most expensive ($500 million) private development in Boston's history. A mixed-use project, Copley Place includes a Neiman-Marcus luxury department store; the Shopping Galleries, 100 varied retail outlets; the Offices at Copley Place, four interconnected seven-story office buildings; two hotels, the Westin and Marriott; three enclosed parking garages with 1,432 spaces, and The Residences, its only housing venture.

The developer is Urban Investment & Development Company of Chicago, a subsidiary of Aetna Life & Casualty. Urban Investment has named the United Development Consulting Corporation, a Chicago real estate development firm, as agent for design, construction, and marketing of The Residences.

Designed by Vitols Associates of Boston, The Residences is a nine-story, L-shaped, red-brick structure facing Harcourt Street adjacent to the Boston Marriott. Its design contrasts with that of Copley Place, as it utilizes bricks more in line with the traditional brownstone

homes and three-decker row houses of the adjacent community.

It includes 78 cooperative apartments selling for from $135,000 for some one-bedroom units to $385,000 for a special three-room townhouse, and 26 subsidized rental apartments (the same models as the coop units, says Warner) on the lower floors for low- and moderate-income tenants (21 elderly and five family). In addition, it will feature six community-oriented retail stores - including a dry cleaners, shoe repair shop, and convenience market - located next to Neiman-Marcus.

King sees The Residences and the Tent City proposal - a development on property adjacent to Copley Place - as the hope for community people ''who otherwise would become displaced persons.''

Tent City unsuccessfully attempted to have its housing proposals tied in with a $19.8 million Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) awarded to Boston as a loan to Urban Investment to build Copley Place in 1980. Instead, the city approved Copley Place with a stipulation that a housing entity be included.

Ms. Tighe says Tent City now seeks financial support from two sources - SHARP (State Housing Assistance for Rental Production) of Massachusetts and a UDAG grant of $10 million to the city from the federal government. ''We are also negotiating with the city to receive an annual amount from the Copley Place payback fund (a fund earned from the interest of the UDAG grant and designated as a ''payback'' to the neighborhood).

Her group has rounded up a development team of the Greater Boston Community Development Corporation, Goody Clancy Associates, and attorney John Bok. ''We are moving forward slowly,'' she says. ''With the (Mayor Raymond) Flynn administration in power, we see the city as more committed to help us get our plans moving.''

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