Dorchester Avenue is on the precipice of a building boom, and it’s a long time coming. Developers have been eyeing the industrial corner of South Boston since the Boston Planning & Development Agency approved PLAN: South Boston Dorchester Avenue in 2016, in an effort to breathe new life into the industrial corridor that serves as a connector between South Boston and the city’s South End. One of the biggest projects on the horizon is a 9-plus acre development that, when completed, will bring new housing and lab space to the neighborhood.
Here’s what we know about the project so far:
Spanning 9.1 acres, the buildings headed for Dorchester Avenue and Ellery Street are currently occupied by a construction lot, a 6,200-square-foot warehouse, and one commercial building. A chunk of the area served as a scrap and salvage yard from the 1940s to the early 2000s, leaving behind high levels of industrial chemicals. It’s a past that has caused a number of hiccups for a project that initially planned to include denser and more residential space.
Now the site is being overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and is being used only for parking and “construction-related activities,” according to the Draft Project Impact Report, until the EPA approves the Remedial Action Plan currently under review.
The development is bordered by Alger Street to the north, Humboldt Street to the south, and Dorchester Avenue to the east. To the west, the Amtrak Southampton Rail Yard and Interstate 93 separate this section of South Boston from the rest of the city.
The location nearby the Red Line’s Andrew Station, and under a mile from Moakley Park, South Bay Center, and Carson Beach, has made the area a popular one for developers. Building owners recently reached a deal with the investment firm Cottonwood Group that will provide $130 million in loans to redevelop 5 acres at Old Colony and Dorchester Avenues into housing, office, lab, and hotel space, and in December, the BPDA approved a plan for a one-million-square-foot complex at 323-365 Dorchester Ave. that will bring more than 300 housing units and 623,000 square feet of lab space to the area.
E-commerce giant Amazon also briefly eyed 505 Dorchester Ave. for the site of a new distribution center, but BPDA shut down the idea citing inconsistencies with the plan to turn the neighborhood into a bustling, mixed-use hub. The Amazon proposal came from Core Investments Inc., the developer on the 475-511 Dorchester Ave. project.
Building on the city’s Plan Dot Ave planning study, the proposal calls for residential, office, commercial, and lab/research space spread across four buildings at 505 Dorchester Ave., 495 Dorchester Ave., 75 Ellery St., and 65 Ellery St. All of the buildings will be 12 or 13 stories, with a maximum height of 198 feet. These buildings are part of Core Investments’ larger development plan, dubbed On the Dot.
A lab and research building at 505 Dorchester Ave. will be the first to go up, totaling 487,400 square feet, with 20,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. The developers’ aim is “to create an immediate presence on Dorchester Avenue as an initial effort to transform this currently industrial and somewhat unstable area into a connected element of the adjacent neighborhood,” according to the Draft Project Impact Report. In order to establish such a transformation, the first phase will also include expanded sidewalks and additional green spaces.
The only residential building will be the 12-story 260,000-square-foot tower at 495 Dorchester Ave. The 284 units planned for the building will consist of studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments, 49 of which will be affordable. Because of the time it will take to remove the industrial chemicals still at the site — a process that will require hauling away 175,000 to 230,000 cubic yards of soil, according to the Draft Project Impact Report — this building will be part of the last phase of the project.
The other two buildings, 65 and 75 Ellery St., will be commercial, lab, and retail space, a diversion from Plan Dot Ave, which aimed for half of all development in the area to include housing units. The developers cited the site’s contamination as the cause, saying, “specific components of the proposal, including the ratio and timing of residential unit development … have been adapted to the specific conditions at the Project Site.”
Core Investment, the developer on the project, isn’t a newcomer to the neighborhood. The Boston-based real estate investment company, in partnership with Samuels & Associates, is working on a $130,000,000 housing development at 235 Old Colony Ave. The project, known as Washington Village, broke ground in November, and is expected to bring nearly 750 apartments to Andrew Square.
The 9.1 acres for the 475-511 Dorchester Ave. project is just the beginning of Core’s plans for the mostly vacant/industrial section of South Boston. With more than 20 acres of land west of Dorchester Ave., the developer is planning for the “revival of an area that more than a century ago was an innovation and manufacturing powerhouse in Boston and for the nation,” according to the project website. So far, there’s one other piece of the project in motion: DOTLabs, a 140,000-square-foot life sciences building at 2 and 4 Alger St.
The proposal for 475-511 Dorchester Ave. is still under review and will be discussed at a virtual public meeting from 6 to 7:30 tonight, May 17. The period to comment on the proposals in the Draft Project Impact Report began in March and will end May 30.
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