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Boston Civic Design Commission offers critiques on Madison-Tropical Foods development

Posted by Patrick Rosso  May 8, 2013 06:10 PM

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(Image courtesy Madison-Tropical Foods)


A rendering of the proposed project looking towards Dudley Square,with Shawmut Avenue to the right and Washington Street to the left.


Developers behind the Madison-Tropical Food’s project in Roxbury received a number of critiques on their plans from the Boston Civic Design Commission Tuesday evening.

The commission provides guidance on a project's appearance and design.

Representatives for the massive project are preparing to present it to the community. A public meeting sponsored by the Boston Redevelopment Authority has been set for Thursday, May 9 from 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts located at 88 Warren St.

The $44 million development is a partnership between the Madison Park Development Corporation and the Tropical Foods grocer.

Plans call for two new buildings along Melnea Cass Boulevard at the currently vacant, publically owned Parcel 10. The project also includes the rehabbing of the existing Tropical Foods location on Washington Street.

The new two-story, 45,000-square-foot supermarket, slated for the corner of Melnea Cass and Shawmut Avenue, is expected to be the first structure built as part of the project. It will house the new, bigger Tropical Foods grocery store.

On the corner of Washington Street and Melnea Cass developers have proposed constructing a five-story 60,000-square-foot mixed-use building for retail and office use.

Tropical Foods existing location on Washington Street, the last part of the project, will be rehabbed and turned into space for residential units and retail.

Thirty-units are expected to be built in the rehabbed building and overall the project will provide 173 parking spaces, according to the Project Notification Form filed with the BRA.

“This project will be among the first private investment in Dudley Square in years,” Russell Tanner, director of real estate for Madison Park, explained to the Design Commission Tuesday evening.

Along with the proposed project at Parcel 10, the city’s has also invested in Dudley Square, with the construction of the Dudley Square Municipal Building. The Boston Transportation Department is also currently working on two projects to redesign the streets around Dudley Square and Melnea Cass. There is also a hotel project proposed for Parcel 9, located across from Parcel 10, adding to the recent resurgence of development activity in the neighborhood.

“This is just one of a number of initiatives that will bring new life to Dudley Square,” Fernando Domenech, the project’s architect explained. “This will be an asset to the neighborhood.”

With a modern looking design, plenty of parking, and buildings brought up to the sidewalk, developers said they believe this project will help add new life to the street that many now regard as more of a cut-thru than a neighborhood street.

Although many acknowledged the importance of the corner to the rebirth of the neighborhood, members of the commission had some harsh words for the project.

“This basically dooms this block of Melnea Cass to be a drive-by street,” Michael Davis, a member of the commission, said Tuesday referring to the plans for the grocery store on the corner of Shawmut Avenue.

Some on the commission criticized the project for not doing enough to bring life to the corner.

“That corner can’t be a no man’s land,” added Davis. “This is damping that part of Melnea Cass.”

Plans currently propose housing the grocery store on the corner of Shawmut Avenue with a large parking lot separating the Shawmut Avenue and Washington Street buildings.

The commission, however, said the grocery store building and the large gap between the buildings for parking could turn the portion of Melnea Cass closer to Shawmut Avenue into dead corner.

“A big part of building here is to build up the density of the site and create a street environment,” said Andrea Leers, a member of the commission. “It seems to me the broad spaces between these buildings don’t do that.”

Others also suggested that ground-floor retail tenants in the second building on the corner of Washington Street and Melnea Cass be able to create their own storefronts to add to life of the street.

“As you evolve the corner of the building create an opportunity for individual tenants to have their own storefronts so tenants can have an identity,” explained David Manfredi, a member of the commission.

Concerns were also raised about the at-grade parking provided in the center of the site and the project's perceived dedication to vehicle traffic.

“The gaps [between the buildings] are too big and the cars are too prominent,” said Kirk Sykes, a member of the Commission.

Although there were a number of critiques many on the commission expressed an excitement for the project that still has to receive a number of approvals before shovels hit the dirt.

"This is really the most important real estate in this region,” added Sykes.

The project is currently in the BRA’s Article 80 design review process, which includes a public meeting and comment period. The project will also be reviewed by the Boston Civic Design Commission Design Review Committee.

According to developers, they’d like to begin work in the fall of 2013.

More information about the project and a copy of the project notification forum can be found here.


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(Image courtesy Google Maps)


An current image of the vacant site.

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Email Patrick D. Rosso, patrick.d.rosso@gmail.com. Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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