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BOSTON-The West End, demolished in the late 1950s as part of the city’s urban renewal effort, will get its first new housing stock in 10 years. Equity Residential Development has broken ground on a five-building, 310-unit complex near the banks of the Charles River. The $160-million plus project, currently known as the Equity Residential Development at Emerson Place, will put studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments and townhouses on 5.6 acres at Storrow Drive, Blossom Street and Thoreau Path, which connects the West End and Charles River.

“These new units will go far in bringing us closer to our goal of increasing the city’s housing stock,” Mayor Thomas Menino says in a statement announcing the groundbreaking. “Once completed, this project will breathe new life into the community with new residents and a significant amount of open space for everyone to enjoy.”

The development will replace a parking garage and parking lot currently on the site with two high-rise apartment buildings and three garden-style buildings. Two underground parking garages capable of holding 660 cars will also be built on the property. The units will lease for an average of $3,000 per month and should be completed in the spring of 2008, Chris Reilly, area vice president for Equity Residential, tells GlobeSt.com.

Reilly says the project was the result of talks centering on whether Equity should repair an aging parking garage acquired when the firm purchased three high-rise apartment buildings at Charles River Park from Boston developer James Rappaport in the late 1990s. At the time, Equity paid more than $273 million for two Longfellow Place towers and a third tower known as Emerson Place.

“We had a choice to make–whether to repair the parking garage or build,” Reilly says. “Since we own apartment buildings, it made more sense to build rather than fix the garage. And it looked like a great opportunity for infill.” As part of its development agreement with the city, Equity committed $350,000 to upgrade Thoreau Path and reserved an extra 2.5 acres as open space. In addition, the firm also pledged to contribute to improvements at the Science Park MBTA Station and the Downtown North Initiatives along with renovating part of the Boston Children’s School, located adjacent to the project.

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