Hyde Square developed around the turn of the century as a working-class neighborhood of woodframe buildings for one to three families. Until recently, a patchwork of undersized and underutilized lots in the Hyde Square neighborhood often served as dumping grounds and eyesores. Now, forty one families own co-operative homes in seventeen new buildings that restore the streetscape at a comfortable density. With extensive input from the community, architects Domenech Hicks and Krockmalnic developed three building types based on the architectural style and layout of several two- and three-family buildings around the city. The three-family building type is a variant of the original "three-decker" with two side-by-side townhouses over a flat; the two-family buildings have individual entries off a common front porch. All units have back decks looking over a private yard area next to well-lit off-street parking.
This housing began with efforts to organize the community by staff from the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNC). Organizer Betsaida Gutierrez and former project manager Ricanne Hadrian went door to door in the neighborhood to build political support and to identify building sites. Lizbeth Heyer, project manager, spoke of the extensive community involvement in shaping and contributing to the design process. Potential residents attended several two-hour multi-lingual sessions to educate themselves about the development process and participate in the design. Reviewing worksheets with alternative home designs, people prioritized their housing needs and made design tradeoffs in order to develop final designs that would best serve the future occupants. Basements, half baths, and combined or separate kitchen and dining areas were some of the issues discussed with regards to security, cost, and cultural attitudes. Presentation material resulting from these workshops were often left on display at the JPNDC office. Architect Fernando Domenech believes that the result of this approach was that, "the development is a successful example of balancing attractive design well suited to the neighborhood and residents with the fiscal responsibility required by a tight budget."
Resident and community organizer Karen Chacon lives in a three-bedroom townhouse with her husband and two daughters, Kimberly and Karen. She commented, "I feel very lucky to be at Hyde Square Co-op. One of the best things is the sense of community and that we have a voice in what happens. The rent is affordable, so we have enough for the kids' tuition and clothes. Eventually we hope to buy our own home." Although the JPNDC hopes that Hyde Square Co-op will serve as an inspiration for nearby property owners to continue the revitalization of the neighborhood, this new stock of affordable family housing will also serve to maintain socio-economic diversity in the long term.