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Up next for Dudley plan: a design workshop

Sandra Larson
Sandra Larson
Sandra Larson is a Boston-based freelance journalist covering urban/social issues and policy. VIEW BIO
Up next for Dudley plan: a design workshop
The BPDA’s Dudley initiative focuses on vacant land parcels. (Photo: Courtesy of BPDA)

Since February 2016, Dudley Square has been the focus of one of the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s community planning initiatives, joining similar efforts in Jamaica Plain/Roxbury and South Boston (Dorchester Avenue).

If you go

What: Dudley design workshop

Where: Monday, Nov. 27, 5:30–8 p.m.

When: 2315 Washington St., Dudley Square, Roxbury

On the web

Dudley Square: http://bit.ly/2Ajocbb

Author: Courtesy of BPDAThe BPDA’s Dudley initiative focuses on vacant land parcels.

For the Dudley planning process, 17 public events have been held so far, including open houses, walking tours and workshops covering transportation, economic and workforce development, housing and climate readiness.

The next meeting — and the last for the 2017 calendar year — will be an urban design workshop on Monday, Nov. 27 from 5:30–8 at Central Boston Elder Services.

Meeting format

BPDA Senior Planner Courtney Sharpe told the Banner that the design workshop will begin with an open house format, during which community members can browse displays that recap the planning process so far and show various urban design concepts relevant to Dudley Square development. Following that will be small-group “table exercises” in which attendees will look at potential development scenarios.

The focus of the evening will mainly be on several vacant lots along Washington Street: the Blair Lot; 2147 Washington St. (across from the Blair Lot, next to Haley House); and Parcel 8 at Melnea Cass Boulevard and Washington Street.

Discussions will cover what buildings might look like if they are to hold office space, housing, retail or other uses.

“It’s really thinking about the form of the building, and how people react to different options of size,” said Lara Mérida, BPDA’s deputy director for community planning.

Mérida and Sharpe said planning for Dudley Square continues to be focused on adding housing in a mix of one-third affordable for low-income households, one-third affordable for middle-income and one-third market rate.

“We want to increase the population to help area businesses thrive, but to ensure that everyone has opportunity, no matter what their income,” Mérida said.

Plan continues despite criticism

The PLAN: Dudley Square process is intended to allow community stakeholders and the BPDA to revisit the visions and goals of the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan and Dudley Vision and to “think strategically about the types of uses, public realm, and scale of development that are best suited for the future of the area,” according to the BPDA’s description of the plan.

Incorporating community feedback, at the end of the planning process the BPDA aims to introduce an updated roadmap and Requests for Proposal for the development of Dudley Square’s publicly-owned and vacant privately-owned land parcels. Zoning changes could be a part of a new plan, though BPDA planners said zoning changes would be more likely related to dimensions than to different uses altogether.

City Councilor Tito Jackson has voiced skepticism of the PLAN: Dudley process, both before and during his recent mayoral campaign. Early in the process, in spring 2016, he called for a halt to the plan, saying the plan was launched without community approval and without regard to his efforts to establish a coordinated vision for the area by restarting the Roxbury Neighborhood Council and launching a community-led Reclaim Roxbury initiative. Last fall, Jackson questioned the lack of a Roxbury housing study and asserted that “development is what drives planning in Roxbury, rather than actual planning driving development.”

At that time, Mérida told the Banner that the Dudley Square community had seemed especially concerned about jobs, and thus PLAN Dudley had focused on workforce and economic development — though housing was part of the conversation. PLAN: Dudley Square workshops have continued to occur on a roughly monthly basis throughout 2016 and 2017.

Jackson’s office did not respond before press time to requests for comment.

BPDA planners expect completion of the PLAN: Dudley process sometime in 2018, though they declined to project a hard-and-fast finish date, calling it an always-iterative process.

“These parcels have been in conversation since the ’90s,” Merida said. “There’s always been the idea that these would bring wealth generation and bring some activity to Dudley Square past closing time, and a mix of jobs and many different uses — retail and also commercial and office. We’re still hearing that throughout this process. Since Feb. 2016, we’ve been thinking through whether there are updates we want to see in the 2004 plan. So it’s about continuing the thoughts on wealth generation as laid out in the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan, and also discussions about housing.”

Seeking Dudley photos

On a lighter note, BPDA planners are seeking photos from the community that reflect positive aspects and experiences of the Dudley Square area for possible inclusion in PLAN: Dudley Square documents and RFPs. If you have old or new Dudley Square images that “make you smile,” you can submit them (up to three at a time) as email attachments to Courtney.Sharpe@Boston.gov.

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