Stanley steps down after 24 years at Dudley Main Streets
When Joyce Stanley joined Dudley Square Main Streets as its founding director in 1995, the commercial district hadn’t fully recovered from decades of disinvestment and the relocation of the Orange Line to the Southwest Corridor.
Then-Mayor Thomas Menino had embraced the national Main Streets program as a way to revitalize long-neglected commercial districts. Dudley, once the second-largest shopping district in New England, was a good candidate, with vacant storefronts and an overrepresentation of hair supply stores, downscale fashion stores selling sneakers and jeans and liquor stores that catered to the nips-in-the-morning crowd.
After 24 years, during which vacant stores and buildings were renovated and reoccupied and the Bolling Building rose from the site of the former Ferdinand’s Furniture store, bringing new retail space to the square, Stanley has retired from the business assistance group. Last Thursday, merchants, community members and city officials gathered at the Bolling Building to honor her.
Addressing the gathering, Stanley spoke about her lifelong commitment to Roxbury and recalled the Dudley Square of her childhood.
“We came to hang out at the pizza shop next to the station,” she said. “We used to buy furniture at Ferdinand’s.”
As a young woman Stanley went to work in City Hall first as an assessor, then in the Public Facilities Department.
Her tenure with Dudley Square Main Streets coincided with a revitalization of the square that brought in tens of millions of dollars in federal, state and city funds to rehabilitate many of the stately but long-vacant buildings, including the former Boys & Girls Club building, Palladio Hall, the Dartmouth Hotel, Hibernian Hall and, after years of advocacy, the Ferdinand Building, renamed the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building, where Stanley’s sendoff was held.
In her remarks, Stanley acknowledged the progress Dudley has made, but underscored new challenges facing the merchants there, in particular rising rents.
“New buildings are nice, but that’s not what makes a community,” she said. “Since we got here, we brought in 800 new jobs. If you want to continue that, you have to come up with ways to help the merchants.”
Among other issues the next Main Streets director will face, Stanley said, is parking. As the city puts municipal lots out to bid for housing and commercial development, customers and employees of existing businesses who drive into Dudley Square will face increased difficulty with parking. Last week, the city released a request for proposals for the redevelopment of the Blair Lot, which currently holds 94 surface parking spaces. The RFP calls for a mix of residential and commercial uses. While developers could replace many of the parking spots taken by new buildings, the additional housing units and new businesses will likely put further strain on parking in the square.
Last week, as Stanley made her departure, the Golden Krust Caribbean restaurant chain opened a new location in the square — part of the continuing revitalization Stanley has helped foster in Dudley.
Main Streets board member Carlos Castillo said the next director will have plenty of work to do helping the merchants navigate city government and access needed services. He recalls the help he received from Stanley when he opened Castillo Wine and Spirits.
“She’s like a mother to me,” he said. “She’s just a wealth of wisdom. I hope whoever comes next can bring that same level of care.”
In the coming years, Dudley Square will likely have hundreds of new housing units, along with new businesses, presenting both challenges and opportunities. Former Main Streets board member Thomas Welch, who finances real estate development projects, said Stanley has helped put Dudley Square back on the map.
“This community in Dudley is very much in the forefront of where urban communities are today,” he said. “Joyce’s commitment is very much a part of that.”