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Roslindale residents discuss substation plans

Posted by Your Town  January 11, 2013 11:26 AM

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About a dozen residents attended the final session of a series of informal office hours held by Roslindale Village Main Street Thursday night to get feedback about plans for the empty substation in the heart of Roslindale.

The former trolley substation, built in 1911, has sat empty and bricked up on the corner of Washington Street and Cummins Highway for decades, but hopes are high that this latest plan might be the one that works.

Steve Gag, president of the Roslindale Village Main Street board, and Wayne Beitler, a member of the substation task force, discussed the project and answered questions.

The hope, the pair explained, is to develop both the substation and F.J. Higgins Funeral Home, which is located next door to the substation and is for sale, simultaneously. The funeral home would be turned into an apartment complex, along with parking, while the substation would have a restaurant, coffee bar, and produce market.

Beitler said, “I think this is our last, best chance to redevelop the substation.”

Roslindale Village Main Street and Historic Boston, both nonprofits, have formed a partnership with a private development company, the Peregrine Group, in a novel way to turn what is an eyesore into a vibrant draw to the area. Without a private company partner, the cost to restore the substation, about $5.2 million, would be prohibitive for the nonprofits.

When Beitler was asked why the substation isn’t just torn down, he said, “It is the reason Roslindale is here. It was one of the ‘streetcar suburbs.’ Historically, it is very significant.”

Concerns voiced by residents included parking issues, delivery trucks, construction traffic and where the buildings’ shadows will fall, among others. Gag said all of those issues were being looked at and discussed.

A larger community meeting is tentatively scheduled for January 30 at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Washington Street.

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