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Team redeveloping vacant lot in Roxbury hopes to bring new energy to neighborhood

Team redeveloping vacant lot in Roxbury hopes to bring new energy to neighborhood
Team redeveloping vacant lot in Roxbury hopes to bring new energy to neighborhood 04:30

BOSTON - Last fall, WBZ first told you about the steps being taken to develop Parcel P-3 in Roxbury. That's also when HYM Investment Group and My City at Peace received the endorsement from The Roxbury Strategic Masterplan Oversight Committee.

The property includes nearly eight acres of land that's been a part of development discussions in Boston for decades.

On Thursday afternoon, the Boston Planning and Development Agency Board voted to tentatively designate HYM Investment Group and My City at Peace to redevelop Parcel P3 in Roxbury.

WBZ-TV's Courtney Cole met with two members of the team at OnyxGroup Development and Realty, who are helping to bring the vision to life.

"Can you imagine what it would sound like, walking down the street in Roxbury, Saturday at 2 o'clock in the afternoon-- hearing live jazz permeate through the neighborhood?" Chanda Smart proposed.

Roxbury development
Plans to redevelop Parcel P3 in Roxbury HYM Investment Group

That's the kind of energy OnyxGroup Development and Realty plans to bring to the area with Parcel P3.

Smart is one half of the duo that makes up OnyxGroup Development and Realty, the Chief Executive Officer. Shabnam Mashmasarmi is her partner and the Chief Operating Officer.

Parcel P3 is made up of 7.7 acres of vacant land, off of Tremont Street, just blocks from Melnea Cass Boulevard.

"We are here on behalf of the community. We're excited and looking forward to making a difference," said Mashmasarmi.

This project will include:

• More than 400 combined housing, rental and homeownership units
• Retail space
• A life science workforce training center
• Embrace Boston Center (Museum, Gallery and Policy Center)

In a press release, sent out today by the Boston Planning Development Agency, it said in part, "One of the main focuses of this proposal is to create a significant amount of affordable housing without displacing current community residents." Sixty-six percent of the units will be considered affordable or income restricted.

Shabnam Mashmasarmi
Chanda Smart and Shabnam Mashmasarmi  CBS Boston

 Courtney Cole asked how Mashmasarmi and Smart how they ended up in this position as partners.

"I ended up venturing out on my own, in a realty space," Smart said "I went to a mutual friend of ours, and I said, 'I need a bad [expletive] lawyer. I need someone that is going to just be no nonsense and is going to work for the people."

"The first communication between the two of us...was a LinkedIn message," Mashmasarmi said. "And it was like, 'Hi, I'm looking for a bad [expletive] attorney to work with! (Laughs) and I heard it was you!' I was like, "Oh, this is a lot! Very forward for me! Would you like to speak, would you like to talk?'"

From that conversation, a powerful partnership formed.

Smart and Mashmasarmi learned that they share the same values and mission: to help and empower first time homebuyers, especially those of color.

Mashmasarmi said, "We realized that [in experiences with previous clients] we'll get to the closing table and they would be short."

"I had a previous partner, same situation--get to the closing table with clients-- and he said to me 'Well if they don't have the $2000 or $3000 at closing, they shouldn't buy a home.' And it devastated me," Smart said. "And it's like no, that's not true, that's just a microcosm of the bigger picture of real estate and equity."

After the construction of her home in Roxbury in 2009, Smart said she realized the need for advocacy and integrity in development or construction.

Mashmasarmi, a Brockton native - and a daughter of immigrant parents--said her parents taught her the importance of owning a home. "We all saw what happens when you don't own your space and when you don't have the resources to buy," she said.

Established in 2021, OnyxGroup has a number of other successful projects. But this project is different for the them.

"And the beauty of being able to be on a team, on P3, is just enormous, because this is where we grew up," Smart said.

In addition, the BPDA said in their e-mailed release, "The development team has committed to a detailed recruiting, mentorship, and sponsorship program for minorities and women who wish to join the building trades. They also plan to build partnerships with Madison Park High School, BFIT, and other schools to provide internships, co-ops, and more for hands-on work experience."

Which falls in line with Smart and Mashmasarmi's vision to help residents - but current and prospective - to not only survive but thrive!

"For us, it's a passion, it's because we've been displaced," Smart said. "And we know what that feels like. And it doesn't have to be that way."

"I see people who look like us, knowing that they can do this, too," Mashmasarmi said.

"We're all passionate about the change we want to see," Smart said.

"We just really believe that it starts here, this is the beginning," Mashmasarmi said.  

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