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Applications received to develop urban farms in Roxbury and Dorchester

Posted by Patrick Rosso  February 26, 2014 11:56 AM

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(Image courtesy Google Maps)


The location of the properties.


Vacant lots in Roxbury and Dorchester could be reborn as urban farms this summer.

Applications have been received to develop three vacant parcels that the city has been pushing for commercial urban agriculture use, according to officials from the Department of Neighborhood Development, which managed the process.

Since late 2013, the department has been working with community members to turn vacant lots on Ballou Avenue, Harold and Akron streets into sources of food and jobs. The initiative paralleled the recently approved Article 89 zoning, which streamlined the process of developing farms in Boston’s neighborhoods.

If farms are developed on the lots, they would be the first to utilize the new zoning and, the department hopes, would act as templates for future urban agriculture endeavors across the city.

“The Walsh Administration is very interested in getting our real estate back to productive use,” explained Sheila Dillon, director of the Department of Neighborhood Development. “It’s been a good process and one that will hopefully get the land farmed this summer.”

Development guidelines, known as Request for Proposals, were created for each of the locations after city officials met with neighbors and stakeholders.

The Request for Proposals is the neighborhood development department’s standard process for selling or changing the ownership of publicly owned property.

Although each individual request was tweaked to fit the specific concerns of each community, they had similar guidelines about the potential uses of the sites, the cleanliness of the sites, and how the parcels would be managed.

The request is public and anyone can apply, but developer criteria favored nonprofits and smaller, community-based organizations. The Request for Proposals was released in December with a deadline of Jan. 22. That deadline was extended to Feb. 3.

The cost for the parcels is not likely to exceed $100, according to the Request for Proposals.

The Ballou Avenue parcel includes four connected lots at 98-100, 102-103, 106-108, and 110-112 Ballou Ave. The combined lots total about 19,970 square feet and are valued at $140,800, according to the city’s Assessing Department. One application was received for Ballou Avenue.

The Harold Street parcel included two vacant lots located at 225 and 227 Harold St. The total area is about 12,699 square feet and is valued at $79,500, according to the city’s Assessing Department. Two applications were received for Harold Street.

The last parcel, located at 3 Akron St., is approximately 8,762 square feet and is valued at $65,700, according to the city’s Assessing Department. Two applications were received for Akron Street.

The applicants will not be released until the proposals have been reviewed and scored by the Department of Neighborhood Development.

Once the applications have been reviewed, the proponents will be brought before the community to be vetted by residents, which is expected to take place by mid- to late-March.

“We really want to demonstrate on a large scale that an urban agriculture program in Boston is viable and that it creates jobs, local food sources, and a welcome open space,” said Dillon.

To read about the community meeting for Ballou Avenue, click here.

To read about the community meeting for Harold Street, click here.

To read about the community meeting for Akron Street, click here.

For a copy of the Ballou Avenue RFP, click here.

For a copy of the Harold Street RFP, click here.

For a copy of the Akron Street RFP, click here.

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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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