The city is eyeing two large Washington Street parcels for private development just a stone’s throw from a number of major projects under way in the Dudley Square area.
Representatives from the Department of Neighborhood Development, the agency that manages the properties, went before the Roxbury community Thursday night for the first in a series of meetings about the sale of the contiguous parcels and what residents would like to see on them.
Located at 2147-2149 Washington St. and 2159-2163 Washington St., the lots combined total 19,495 square feet and are currently being leased by the Mayo Group for parking. They were assessed in 2013 for a combined value of $215,100, according to the city’s Assessing Department. The city took control of the lots through tax foreclosures, according to DND.
“There’s a lot of exciting work happening in the area and we thought this would be a great opportunity to partner and add to that,” explained Donald Wright, deputy director of Real Estate and Sales for DND.
Dudley Square has seen surge in development as of late, with number of projects happening in the area including the Ferdinand Building redevelopment in Dudley Square and the Tropical Foods project on Melnea Cass Boulevard.
No formal timeline has been generated for the sale of the Washington Street properties and they will be subject to DND’s “Request for Proposals” process, which includes community meetings, public vetting, and a public bidding process.
“Right now we really want to get folks out and get an idea about what the community is interested in,” Wright said.
As part of the public process an RFP will be generated using community input to help guide potential proposals for the sites.
At Thursday’s meeting the crowd of about 10 or so residents said the parcels are key to economic development in the neighborhood and increasing foot traffic.
“I’d like to make a pitch for retail on the ground floor and market-rate housing above it,” said Carole Brennan, a Dudley Square resident and member of the Dudley Vision Task Force.
“It [mixed-use development] is something we hear about often and really provides opportunities to make this a 24/7 neighborhood,” Brennan added.
Although for many mixed-use development was seen as a positive, parking was also at the forefront of many conversations.
“Parking is terrible, why can’t we leave it as a parking lot?” asked James Harris, an area resident. “Parking is only going to get worse, especially once the Ferdinand is done.”
Others said if parking wasn’t on the table public transit would have to be improved to really bring the economic development many in the neighborhood would like to see.
“If you want to attract people from the outside you need good public transit or parking,” said Bobbi Hamill, an area resident. “A 24/7 neighborhood sounds great but you have to get back to where you came from.”
Some said while parking is important to the neighborhood the right kind of parking is what matters most.
“One of the things that came out of the Parcel 9 and Parcel 10 process was that parking is helpful when it is local,” explained Kathe McKenna, executive director of the Haley House, which is located adjacent to the parcels. “People don’t often use big parking lots; they can be scary. It’s thought that you do it here and there so it’s convenient and people leave once they are done.”
Although any applicant that wishes to purchase the property must go through the vetting process, DND representatives said there is substantial interest in the properties from a number of developers and community institutions including the Haley House and Mayo Group, which owns a number of adjacent properties.
“In addition to abutters there have also been a lot of developers that have expressed interest,” said Sheila Dillon, director of DND.
Thursday’s meeting, which was lightly attended, was just the beginning of what is expected to be a long conversation about what the right project will be for the prominent space.
A follow-up meeting hasn't been scheduled yet, but DND representatives said they hope to be back by early December.
More information about the Washington Street properties and other DND projects in the area can be found here.