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Old Cote Ford parcel in Mattapan could finally see redevelopment

Posted by Cara Bayles  April 8, 2011 05:06 PM

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After years of laying fallow, the 150,000 square-foot industrial site on Cummins Highway once home to a Ford dealership finally seems on-track for development, as planners from around the country prepare to inspect the site, and the city tries to add the property to its inventory.

The Department of Neighborhood Development is in the process of acquiring the parcel through tax title foreclosure, which would allow it to eventually consider different proposals for the land and sell it to a developer, according to city officials. The former Cote Ford parcel has changed hands several times, city officials say.

Now, as members of the American Planning Association converge in Boston this weekend for the organization's annual national conference, planners will tackle the parcel in an all-day workshop.

"When our planners from all across the country come in for the conference, we pair them up with community leaders and stakeholders to address a planning challenge or an issue they might have," said Roberta Rewers, spokeswoman for the American Planning Association. Community leaders, citizens, and guest planners will survey the property for 30 minutes, learn about the parcel's history, and spend several hours brainstorming and drawing up possible proposals on how to develop the parcel.

Past efforts to develop the parcel have been fruitless. Proposals have included bringing the site back to its roots as an auto dealership and reinventing it as a skate park. A 2007 the affordable housing developers at Community Builders Inc. proposed building a 141-unit residential building on the site. The plan was rejected by neighbors, who felt the building would be too large and create traffic problems.

But the parcel, just outside of Mattapan Square, sits in an area that seems destined for development. Mattapan Square was recently named the latest location for the city's Main Streets program, which helps grow small businesses and economic development opportunities for neighborhoods. The MBTA hopes to build a station for the Fairmont Line extension near the parcel, between Cummins Highway and Blue Hill Avenue, despite disapproval from abutting residents and some elected officials.

With that in mind, Saturday's planning conference will focus on land use, urban design, community development, and real estate finance. Participants will outline a strategy for moving forward of the proposals they draw up, which will include an ongoing community involvement component.

E-mail Cara Bayles at carabayles@gmail.com.

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