The dilapidated Columbia Road structure adjacent to the North Dorchester Burying Ground in Uphams Corner could be reborn.
Abandoned since 1977, the approximately 1,200-square-foot building, which sits on an approximately 2,300-square-foot lot, has housed many different establishments since it was constructed in 1912, including public restrooms and office space. Located next to the Atco Supply Company, the building has sat underused since the late 1970s, with a deteriorating foundation, collapsing roof, and fire-damaged interior.
The land and structure is worth a combined $84,000, according to the city’s Assessing Department.
On Wednesday, neighbors and community advocates gathered at the Strand Theater to discuss the property’s future.
The Department of Neighborhood Development, which currently manages the space, would like to sell the property and see it put to a productive use.
Over the coming months, the department will develop a Request for Proposals for the site. The Request for Proposals, or RFP, is DND’s standard process for selling publicly owned property. In addition to providing details about the property, the RFP lays out what neighbors would like to see at the site. Potential developers are required to complete a RFP.
“I’ve driven past this site for years and didn’t know it existed and didn’t know its history,” said Donald Wright, deputy director of real estate management and sales for DND. “It’s an exciting opportunity.”
While the property offers a number advantages to potential businesses--including a highly visible storefront on the bustling Columbia Road--it has a number of challenges.
In addition to the work it will take to rehabilitate the deteriorating building, DND isn’t quite sure of its historical status. The property doesn’t appear on any historic registries, and it isn’t landmarked. It, however, does abut the North Dorchester Burying Ground, Dorchester's oldest remaining landmark, according to the city of Boston.
Historical status would limit the possibility of new doorways or windows or demolition for new construction, according to DND representatives.
Although it will be some time before the site’s historic credentials are sorted out, neighbors had plenty of ideas for what the space could be used for including a café, bike shop, visitor center, and restaurant.
“I’d think we’d rather have something there that’s active and serves the public,” said Kit Binns, an area resident. “Although there are number of businesses in Uphams Corner, the neighborhood lacks plenty.”
Other suggestions floated by residents included an ice cream shop, bakery, and chicken and waffles restaurant.
“With all the great things happening in the neighborhood, this is just another thing that can add to the momentum,” said Max MacCarthy, executive director of the Uphams Corner Main Street, a business development non-profit.
While some suggestions included demolishing the building, others advocated for it to be saved or at least preserved in spirit.
“I’d like to see in the RFP that the current look be retained,” said Nancy Conrad, an area resident. “It gives an indication of what our community was like a 100 years ago.”
Although DND is not adhering to a strict timeline for the project, an RFP is expected to be out before the summer. Once the RFP is out, potential developers will have 60 days to submit their proposals. Once the deadline has passed, the highest scored applicants will be brought before the community before any developer receives a tentative designation as the site’s new owner.