Businesses join forces in bid to create office park in Mattapan
Since the first shovels went into the ground for the redevelopment of the Boston State Hospital site in the late 1990s, three residential communities have been built with hundreds of new housing units, a nature preserve was created and the UMass Medical School built a manufacturing plant for its MassBiologics division.
Now, with the last 10-acre parcel on the Boston State Hospital site up for bids, a team of firms called the Neponset Cooperative Trust is seeking something completely different for Mattapan: a locally-focused, environmentally-friendly business park.
The Green New Deal Innovation Center (GNDIC) would include a commercial greenhouse, a commercial food waste composting operation, a food industry training center and a commercial food preparation and delivery operation.
The overarching aim of the business park, proponents say, is to help local food-industry start-ups and established businesses continue to grow in Boston and create and preserve employment for local residents.
Rising rents are part of what pushed the group to consider the site, according to Lor Holmes, a co-founder of CERO, a commercial food waste composting cooperative that is part of the Neponset Cooperative Trust.
“For the last five years we’ve been looking for land in the city of Boston,” she said.
CERO lost their warehouse space in the Newmarket business area recently, due to pressure from developers. They were able to find another warehouse in the same area, but the space is not compatible with their long-term needs.
“We’ll outgrow that before too long,” Holmes said.
City Fresh Foods, a meal preparation and catering firm and another member of the trust, is facing similar pressure on its Newmarket location.
While lease rates in Roxbury and Dorchester average $22.66 per square foot, Neponset Cooperative Trust members say local food-based businesses require leases around $15 per square foot. The group plans to offer substantially-discounted lease rates to businesses and nonprofits including the Commonwealth Kitchen, About Fresh/Fresh Truck and Chinese Golden Age.
“This would be an opportunity to co-locate and operate this land as a trust,” CERO’s Holmes said of the Boston State parcel. “If we do this, it’s a way of creating affordable rents for ourselves as well as locating other businesses there.”
Members of the team include CERO Cooperative; City Fresh Foods, Inc.; Hurst Landscape; and Westland Gate Capital, LLC, a financing and business advisory firm.
The plans for the site submitted by the team include a 42,600-square-foot commercial greenhouse, an acre of outdoor urban farm space, buildings for Hurst Landscaping, CERO and City Fresh, a cooperative grocery, a training center and a business incubator space.
“Our goal would be to have a stable space,” said Sheldon Lloyd, CEO of City Fresh. “Someplace we don’t have to worry about moving from.”
Lloyd’s business grew from 80 employees to 120 over the past year, but the rent on his Newmarket location increased by 200 percent. The City Fresh workforce, more than 80 percent of whom live in Boston, are competing against national and international firms. Lloyd says he can keep his business growing and remain competitive and keep local workers employed if he can control costs.
“The biggest threat isn’t the size of our facility,” he said. “It’s the affordability.”
Neponset Cooperative Trust is one of six teams bidding for the 10-acre parcel. The other five teams include nonprofit and for-profit developers seeking to build housing on the site. The state-appointed Community Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations to the state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, is expected to begin meetings to review proposals in January.