City Fresh caterer has its eye on new home

The Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation is hoping to secure a funding package that would allow them to bring in a neighborhood-based food service company as the tenant of a now vacant building that Dorchester Bay owns at the corner of Quincy and Ceylon Streets.

For the plan to succeed, Dorchester Bay will need city-approved tax credits to offset the roughly $2 million it is estimated to cost to renovate the 22,000 square foot former auto shop into a facility suitable for City Fresh Foods, a dining management and meal delivery company currently located at a smaller building on Bowdoin Street.

"This is the tenant we want, and the sooner we figure out how to make it happen the better," said Jeanne DuBois, executive director of the Dorchester Bay EDC. "We still have some gaps in the financing, but we think we have got some angles on how to close the gap."

DuBois said that a budget for the project was compiled this week, and that a funding package that might include bridge loans to help construction begin as soon as possible would be pulled together in the month ahead.

Glenn Lloyd, co-founder of City Fresh Foods, confirmed that he hopes to grow the company by moving from a 3,800 square foot facility on Bowdoin Street to the larger Quincy Street building. He also acknowledged that a funding package much broader than his own company's resources would be necessary to make that happen.

"We're a small company, without a whole lot of money in the bank," said Lloyd. "The numbers have got to be right for us to make this happen."

The trickiest factor in organizing the funding to make the project a reality may be the timetable. Lloyd says his company would have to be up and running at a new site in time for the Christmas season, meaning that construction at the Quincy Street site would have to begin around July 1. This could be a tight time crunch in both securing funding for the project and working with the city to secure tax credits to make up the difference.

"We have had initial discussions with Dorchester Bay and City Fresh and eagerly await a formal request," said Andre Porter, deputy director of Boston's department of neighborhood development.

Lloyd said that the move would allow him to nearly double the physical space of his business and subsequently increase his workforce, currently 65 employees. Many of the addition hires would likely come from the surrounding community.

The potential of City Fresh as a tenant for the building, for several years, was appealing to residents who attended several recent meetings, said Michael Kozu, a community organizer from Project RIGHT in Grove Hall.

"There were a string of auto-related businesses there that were not seen as especially community-appropriate," said Kozu. "I think people would be open to something like City Fresh. They have a very good track record as a neighborhood-initiated business that employs a lot of people in the community."

The City Fresh proposal is part of a broader strategy to revitalize this languishing neighborhood, north of Columbia Road and situated between the larger commercial districts of Grove Hall and Uphams Corner. Dorchester Bay has been working in conjunction with the Quincy Geneva Housing Corporation on a master plan for the area. The first tangible portion of that plan will begin to materialize in May, when the city starts a million dollar renovation project at Ceylon Park that will include a new astro-turf playing surface.

Neighborhood activist John Barbour said that he hoped the master plan would help convince state legislators to release funds necessary to create a fifth stop along the Farimount commuter rail line.

"The problem is that the fifth station was on the radar, but now it's not in the budget," said Barbour. We need about $8 million to make it happen."

A new rapid transit station, said Barbour, would be the crucial catalyst in fostering a vibrant business district and robust residential community around the intersection.

"I was on the Blue Hill Avenue Task Force that envisioned development similar to this, so I know the process takes time," said Barbour. "But in this case, we sure we won't need ten years to get done what we want to do."

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