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Fairmont Line stops bring new housing, commercial growth to Boston

Martin Desmarais
Fairmont Line stops bring new housing, commercial growth to Boston
Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corp. has been pursuing development near commuter rail stops on the Fairmont Line in Dorchester, an $11 million development at 157 Washington St., featuring 24 units of housing and commercial space.

Governor Patrick riding an MBTA Commuter Rail train on the Housatonic Rail Line.

The opening of new commuter rail stations along the Fairmont Line, which runs through Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan and Hyde Park, is spurring a development boom along its route.

Efforts by the state over the last several years have resulted in the addition of three stops on the Fairmont Line — Talbot Avenue Commuter Rail Station, Four Corners Commuter Rail Station and Newmarket Commuter Rail Station. A fourth new station — Blue Hill Avenue — is planned for the future.

According to MassDOT and MBTA officials, the station locations were chosen to support improved bus service by reducing overcrowding on existing buses, to relieve traffic congestion on main thoroughfares and to provide an alternative mode of transportation in creating “walk-to” stations for neighborhood residents along the corridor.

However, many community development organizations also see the addition of the stops as an opportunity to revitalize the surrounding neighborhoods.

The Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corp. has a number of projects connected to the new Fairmont Line stops near Codman Square and in Dorchester. The Codman Square NDC is focusing on development within a half-mile radius of the Four Corners stop and the Talbot Ave. stop.

Codman Square NDC has already finished an $11 million project on 157 Washington St., across the street from the Four Corners stop. The development, which began in 2011, contains 24 units of housing in what used to be a 28,000-square-foot industrial building. The three-and-a-half story building contains both residential and commercial space. In addition to the housing it also houses the Dorchester Arts Collaborative and, according to Codman Square NDC Executive Director Gail Latimore, discussions are ongoing about bringing in a restaurant.

Latimore said the 157 Washington St. project is indicative of what Codman Square NDC is trying to do around the new Fairmont Line stops.

“The idea we developed was to try and create a sense of place at 157 Washington St.” Latimore said. “We are trying to achieve the goal of building and arts and culture kind of vibe.

“That is just one of our flagship projects in the Four Corners area,” she added.

Codman Square NDC also has 24 affordable housing rental units and one commercial space recently developed on what used to be just under 16,000 square feet of vacant land at 245 Talbot Ave., which is near the Talbot Ave. stop.

Another planned project is mixed-used development near Talbot Station, which will be built on both sides of New England Ave. Codman Square NDC is also bidding for land owned by the city on Bowdoin St. and Washington St.

“We have quite a bit of activity underway, finished or planned, at both the Four Corners Stop on the Fairmont Line and the Talbot Stop on the Fairmont Line,” Latimore said. “We are trying to acquire these sites and build for affordability.”

Latimore said that Codman Square NDC is very aware of gentrification concerns and admits they are already seeing signs of it with the new Fairmont Line stops — but she says they are fighting it every chance they get. The key is to make sure that all new housing is affordable.

“We are starting to see a lot of people interested in Codman Square as a place to live,” she said. “It is an opportunity and a challenge.

“It is a good thing. We just are really continuing to look at things to figure out how to strategize to figure out how the long-time residents are going to benefit from this,” she added.

In all its work, Codman Square NDC is also working closely with Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corp., Mattapan Community Development Corp. and South West Boston Community Development Corp. The organizations have formed a special collaborative.

In addition to its work with other community development corporations, including Codman Square NDC, on development along the Fairmont Line, South West Boston CDC is working on a development on Nott St. in Hyde Park, near the Fairmont stop, at an estimated cost of $10 million.

According to Matt Thall, interim executive director of South West Boston CDC, all the work his organization does takes into close consideration what the community wants.

“We are doing a lot of outreach to the community right now to get them educated about the project,” Thall said. “We see it as an important sparkplug for the whole revitalization of Logan Square.”

Thall emphasized that it is crucial to get some projects off the ground to show that they can be successful in the area.

“We believe, and have heard from developers, that if some development activities take place it can attract some of the transit-oriented development that can revitalize the area,” Thall said. “We see it as something that will send a signal to the whole development community that there are neighborhoods serving development opportunities in Logan Square.”

The ultimate goal, according to Thall, is to stimulate the area, bringing more vitality, more jobs, more goods and more services. He believes it can stop a trend that has local residents leaving the area for goods and services because not enough of them are available where they live.

“People go to suburbs for goods that they could get locally if there was more commercial vitality here,” he said.

Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corp. is also involved in the surge of development around the improvements on the Fairmont Line.

The organization has already finished a new project, Dudley Village, which has 50 units of affordable rental housing and about 6,200 square feet of commercial space on Dudley St. in Dorchester. Dudley Village is two blocks from the Upham’s Corner stop on the Fairmont Line, which is between the new Four Corners stop and the Newmarket stop.

Dorchester Bay EDC is also working on a massive development — with over $56 million in loans and grants already designated — between the new Four Corners stop and the Upham’s Corner stop.

The project, called Quincy Heights, will rehabilitate nine former public housing buildings and construct two new buildings to create new affordable housing units in two phases. The proposal is for 80 new affordable housing units in the first phase and about 50 new affordable housing units in the second phase.

According to Andy Waxman, director of real estate at Dorchester Bay EDC, developers of Quincy Heights have worked with community members to consider their input. The $56 million budget of the project includes $3 million for increased social services in the surrounding community and $3 million for community developments around Quincy Heights.

“There was recognition there that the housing was in very bad condition and needed to be upgraded,” Waxman said.

Dorchester Bay EDC also has another project on Quincy St. — the $14 million Pearl Small Business Food Production Center, which will help startups and small food businesses get off the ground.