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Young demonstrators protest over affordable housing

About 200 youth protesters arrived at the front doors of City Hall on Wednesday, hoping to see the mayor or the head of the Boston Redevelopment Authority to present a list of demands to keep a proposed development in their Jamaica Plain neighborhood affordable.

But when they tried to enter the government building, they were met by police officers and security guards who blocked their entrance.

Standing near the new Astro Turf lawn unveiled earlier in the day, the protesters demanded to be heard.

“They would not let us in,’’ said Abdul Hussein, a 19-year-old Jamaica Plain protester. “It’s sad.”

City officials said there were too many protesters to allow inside the building at once. Officials offered to meet with a smaller group of four to eight people Wednesday, and the protesters agreed to meet with BRA officials at a later date.


“I just want you to know that your concerns’’ are being heard, Erico Lopez, the BRA’s director of development, review and policy, told the protesters.

The confrontation was over a planned project at 3200 Washington Street in Egleston Square, where a developer has proposed transforming an industrial property into a gleaming mixed-use space. The new complex would include 76 residential units and 5,364 gross square feet of street-level retail space, widened sidewalks, and usable open space above a garage, according to a BRA document.

But protesters say the planned residences would not be affordable to those already living in the neighborhood, who have been reeling from soaring rents and growing worry they will eventually be priced out.

They pointed to surrounding neighborhoods where new development has left local residents feeling squeezed.

“Recently a lot of people have been noticing a lot of gentrification going on,’’ said Kelsey Galeano, an 18-year-old Jamaica Plain resident who attended the protest. “People are beginning to organize so we can fight this.”


The protesters have demanded a meeting with BRA director Brian Golden, and insist that the new development be 100 percent affordable for the average family in the neighborhood that makes $26,000 a year. The BRA board is expected to decide on the project soon.

Lopez told the demonstrators that 18 percent of the planned residences at the Washington Street project will be affordable units, exceeding the legal limit of 13 percent. The city’s Department of Neighborhood Development is also seeking bids for the redevelopment of an adjacent property that would boost the total affordable units to 23 percent, he said.

Nicholas Martin, a spokesman for the agency, said that BRA officials have been to several community meetings about the development and officials have been paying attention to the issues raised.

“We fully understand their concerns about affordable housing and we are doing our best to address them before taking this project to our board for any sort of approval,’’ Martin said.

Meghan E. Irons can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.