State seeks bids for last 10-acre parcel on Boston State Hospital site
In the decades since the 1979 closure of the Boston State Hospital campus, residents of Dorchester and Mattapan and state and local officials have struggled over how best to develop the site.
Over the last ten years or so, however, as developers have built out portions of the expansive campus, a new neighborhood has taken shape, with housing, a nature preserve, a new school building and a state laboratory.
In May, the state’s Division of Capital Asset Management quietly released a request for proposals for the last 10-acre parcel at the Boston State site, giving prospective developers a shot at filling in what was until recently the largest expanse of undeveloped land in the city.
It’s a small sliver of the overall site, but state Rep. Russell Holmes says it still represents a tremendous opportunity.
“Where else in the city are you going to get 10 acres?” he said.
The eastern portion of the parcel abuts the steeply-graded section of Harvard Street between Morton Street and Walk Hill Road. To the south of the parcel is the MassBiologics research lab run by University of Massachusetts Medical School. To the west is the Mass Audubon Boston Nature Center. To the north is the Olmsted Green housing development, a 339-unit mixed-income development currently mid-way to completion. The development is a joint venture between New Boston Fund, Inc. and the nonprofit Lena Park Community Development Corporation.
Just across Morton Street, Cruz Development is in the third phase of Harvard Commons, a subdivision of affordable and market-rate single-family and two-family homes. Cruz Development President John B. Cruz III says the new development in the area has boosted home values in the surrounding neighborhood.
“We saw the possibility there for a new neighborhood and we took a gamble,” he said. “What we’ve proven is that people of color with disposable income will come back and live in the black community if you give them the amenities and style they’d expect in the suburbs.”
The RFP for the remaining 10-acre parcel is open-ended, calling for residential development, commercial uses that don’t compete with existing businesses in the neighborhood, office space and/or light industrial use.
The potential uses are defined further in the 2002 update to the Boston State Hospital master plan, a document the Division of Capital Asset Management created with the Citizens Advisory Committee that governs community input on development at the site. Any jobs created at the site must be geared toward the local population, according to the document. Housing units are to be created with a range of market-rate and affordable units within reach of people residing in the surrounding neighborhoods.
In Cruz Development’s Harvard Commons, half the units are affordable and half market-rate. Cruz says the market-rate units are an important boost for the Mattapan and Dorchester neighborhoods surrounding the Boston State site.
“The future of the community can’t be dependent on just affordable housing,” he said. “With homeowners, you have people who have a stake in the community. They want improvements in the neighborhood.”
The RFP was released May 22 and submissions are due September 13. Holmes, who is an ex-officio member of the CAC, said he expects to see eight to 10 proposals.
“I’d like to see a combination of ideas,” he said. “I would love to have a lot of proposals coming out the gate, so we have options to pick from.”