Housing planned for Dudley could boost businesses
When the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building opened its doors in 2015, many in the Dudley Square area hoped the shiny new building and its hundreds of employees would help revitalize Roxbury’s commercial and public transit center.
To some extent, the building has been successful in that endeavor, bringing in Boston Public Schools staff and housing food, retail and service businesses in its ground-floor retail spaces. But as daylight fades and workers depart the area, the commercial district loses its vitality.
That may change, as more than 400 housing units permitted and under construction in the Dudley Square area come into being. The new housing projects, undertaken by local community development corporations and development firms, promise to bring a mixture of affordable and market-rate housing to the area, potentially increasing the number of people in the area after dark, and the number of people with sufficient disposable income to keep businesses thriving.
Struggling to stay open
The current lack of commercial activity in the evening has led to two potential setbacks for the square. The Dudley Dough pizza shop, located in a space abutting the lobby of the Bolling building, announced last month it will close by the end of the year. Next door, the Tasty Burger franchise, too, is rumored to be planning to exit.
In a community meeting earlier this year, Dudley Dough manager Luther Pinkney cited a lack of patrons during the evening and the high concentration of residents lacking disposable income as challenges for area businesses.
“I’m troubled by the idea that Dudley Dough and Tasty Burger are not financially feasible,” said Fort Hill resident Rodney Singleton in an interview with the Banner.
Chief among the proposed developments in Dudley Square is the 25-story, 236-unit Rio Grande tower, a project proposed by a majority black team. The Washington Street tower will be sited directly across from the Dudley Station bus terminal on land owned by the Long Bay Management Company. The developers of the project are calling for retail and entertainment space on the ground floor, office space and residential apartments, 80 percent of which will be market rate.
Just outside the square at the site of the former Bartlett Yard MBTA bus maintenance facility, Nuestra Comunidad is constructing 102 of an eventual 323 units of new housing as part of its Bartlett Place project, which will include rental and owner-occupied units. In the first phase, 32 units will be affordable to renters earning up to 30 percent of the area median income.
Nuestra Comunidad Executive Director David Price says the nonprofit’s aim is to construct a development in which one-third of the units are affordable, one-third moderately affordable and one-third market rate.
“Each building will be a different mix,” he said. “We’re trying to get a spread of incomes.”
2451 Washington Street Condominiums
Across from the Area B police station, developer Clayton Turnbull is constructing a four-story, 16-unit condominium development with 7 affordable units. Units will have one, two or three bedrooms.
Madison Tropical Parcel 10, Building C
As part of its development of Parcel 10, along with the already-open new Tropical Foods store, Madison Park Development Corporation is renovating the grocer’s former building, constructing 37 new residential units, including 20 affordable units built with Inclusionary Development funds from the Belvidere/Dalton luxury tower currently under construction in the Back Bay.
Melnea Hotel and Residences
Just across Melnea Cass Boulevard on Washington Street, the Melnea Hotel and Residences will include 50 residential units, in addition to 108 hotel rooms. That building is currently under construction.
In addition to the projects currently underway, the Boston Planning and Development Agency is in various stages of planning the disposition of other large parcels of land in the area. These include Parcel 8, which is bounded by Harrison Avenue, Melnea Cass Boulevard and Washington Street; The Blair Lot, the former site of the Blair’s Foodland Supermarket, which is currently used as a municipal parking lot and Parcel B2; and the former site of the Area B police station.
While the administration of Mayor Martin Walsh has suggested a commercial use for those parcels, throwing them into its proposal for sites to attract a Boston Amazon headquarters last month, Price notes there’s been some debate on how they should be used.
“There’s a school of thought that says it should all be commercial, because we need jobs,” he noted. “But we also need housing.”