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Task force hears Dudley projects updates

Sandra Larson
Sandra Larson is a Boston-based freelance journalist covering urban/social issues and policy. VIEW BIO

The Dudley Vision Advisory Task Force recently heard an update from Ferdinand project planners and local agencies on infrastructure projects set to overlap with the construction of a new municipal and retail building on the Ferdinand site.

Representatives from the Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC), MBTA and Boston Transportation Department (BTD) spoke last week to Task Force members and about 20 community members.

For the most part, they assured attendees they are in touch with the Ferdinand project team and are coordinating their Dudley Square plans to minimize traffic disruption, noise and bus re-routing problems.

The construction on the Ferdinand site is starting now and will continue until fall of 2014. During that same period, several other projects will affect the Dudley area: BWSC will start sewer separation work; MBTA will make upgrades to Dudley station; and BTD has street redesign and upgrade projects in the works for Dudley Square and Melnea Cass Boulevard.

BWSC Director of Construction Irene McSweeney spoke about the sewer separation project. The three-year sewer project is expected to begin in June or July, starting at Harrison Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard.

Boston has a combined sewer system that transports both rainwater and sanitary sewage in the same pipes. In heavy storms, “combined sewer overflows” can discharge sewage into waterways such as Fort Point Channel and the Boston Harbor. Separation of the pipes to avoid this water pollution has already been completed in some parts of Boston, she said, and will now start in the Dudley area. At the same time, some older water mains will be replaced.

McSweeney noted that BWSC has plenty of experience coordinating its work with other agencies, and said her department is in discussions with the Ferdinand planners.

“We know what they need, and they know what we need,” she assured the task force.

A contractor will be named for the BWSC work soon, and after that, McSweeney said, she will distribute details on which streets will be affected on which dates. This information will also be posted on boards in Dudley Station, listed on the BWSC website, and sent by email to elected officials and other stakeholders.

In response to a question from a local resident, McSweeney did not rule out new rodent problems, but described an extensive process of baiting and monitoring that the BWSC performs in compliance with Inspectional Services Department requirements.

Dudley Bus Station improvement work will start in May, according to MBTA Senior Project Manager Mahendra Patel. Three busways will be replaced, and partial busway closings will begin soon on nights and weekends.

Task force and community members asked Patel how bus stops will be relocated when bus lanes are closed. Patel noted that only one area of the station will be under construction at a time, causing less disruption than tearing up the whole station at once.

“Each piece has to be 100 percent complete before we start on the next,” he said, making it likely that bus stops could be relocated within the station rather than outside it.

Patel was not able to give an update on MBTA’s discussions with the Ferdinand design team regarding the new municipal building’s interface with the bus station. In an earlier meeting, the Ferdinand design team presented a vision for an outdoor seating area that could require alterations in bus lane usage; attendees wanted to hear that conversations were happening with the MBTA on such issues.

A May 10 meeting is set to focus on transportation and parking; a May 31 meeting will bring another update on coordination among the Ferdinand planners and the various agencies. The unanswered MBTA questions will be addressed at one of these meetings, city officials indicated.

Patrick Hoey of the BTD gave a brief rundown of two street improvement projects. Planning is underway for changes to Melnea Cass Boulevard, and construction will likely begin there in mid-2013. Planning for Dudley Square changes will start soon, he said, with construction likely in late 2013. Dates for public meetings on the Dudley project were not yet available.

After the presentations, the topic turned to retail opportunities. The new building will hold 20,000 square feet of ground floor space suitable for stores and restaurants. A representative from state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz’s office inquired about the schedule for potential tenants to discuss leases; task force member Sarah-Ann Shaw expressed hope the city will consider the right variety of businesses Dudley needs; Joyce Stanley urged the city to offer assistance to local start-ups that might find it hard to get financing or pay the full rent initially.

Joseph Mulligan of the city’s Property and Construction Management department said they are still deciding how leasing will be handled, and have yet to hire an asset manager who will manage the retail space. He predicted potential tenants will be able to start discussing retail space possibilities this fall.

Retail is the topic for a June 14 task force meeting. For more information on upcoming meetings, see

Leonard Egerton, Roxbury resident and owner of Frugal Bookstore, is very interested in the possibility of relocating his business to the new building, in the heart of Dudley Square.

Speaking after the meeting, he said he wants local residents to get a fair shot at the new spaces, and that they should be offered first options.

“I really want to see this project serve the community, and not just be gentrification,” he said. “You have a lot of struggling businesses who deserve to be part of this rise.”

He can’t always make it to 6 p.m. meetings, as his store, now located in the Mall of Roxbury, is open until 7 p.m., but he is following the process closely.

“I grew up here. In my 48 years, there’s never been anything in that space,” he said. “Now I’m rearing a family, I own a business, and I want to be part of this.”