City-owned parcels draw multiple bidders along Norfolk

A few alternate futures are being considered for the intersection of Woodrow Avenue and Norfolk Street, in the form of competing bids for seven city-owned vacant lots in the area.

The bidders range from a church that bid on all seven lots, to a local retail property owner and an affordable housing builder which both bid only on some. It will be up to the city's Public Facilities Commission to assign each lot a developer.

Pastor Antoine Montgomery of the Prayer Tower Apostolic Church (PTAC) pestered the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) for years to put the sites up for bid so he could expand his church and the parking for it. His plan at the time included a youth center, a thrift shop and new 350-seat sanctuary on Norfolk Street..

But in February, the owner of a large "Oil Heat" warehouse at 165-173 Norfolk gave PTAC a three-year lease with an option to extend the lease by one year,as well as an option to buy. The warehouse is large enough, Montgomery has said in the past, to house many of the programs the church had in mind. Montgomery did not return a call for this article to confirm whether or not he is still interested in the lots.

YouthBuild Boston bid on two of the lots, at the corner of Norfolk and Balina Place. The affordable-housing builder trains youth in construction on the job, and plans a duplex and a single-family house there. Both houses would be heavy with cutting edge green building features, said YouthBuild's new development director Jim Hartman. They might even sport solar panels and green roofs, he said..

Thierry Thezine, a local property owner who grew up in Dorchester, bid on three other lots, two on the corner of Norfolk and Woodrow Avenue and one at 145-149 Norfolk. Thezine bought 140 Norfolk, the home of Stalex Pizza across the street, from the city for $21,500 in 1984. He also owns a retail building on Blue Hill Avenue and some residential property.

Thezine said the only thing he knows for sure is he wants to put in a laundromat there. As to other businesses, he hasn't decided yet but might consider a used car lot.

"You need some business in the neighborhood," Thezine said. "There are so many churches in the neighborhood, they are everywhere."

One other bidder, Matt Nelson, a local resident and owner of Narrow Way Plumbing and Heating, bid on two lots on Milton Avenue, but said he would not compete with pastor Montgomery's plans.

The area supports dozens of churches, as does much of neighboring Codman Square and Four Corners. Some have said too many. Before the lots were put out to bid, some neighbors expressed interest in light commercial or retail of a type that is not yet available in the neighborhood, "not an autobody or a hair salon," said Paul Malkemes, who facilitates the Talbot Norfolk Triangle (TNT) neighborhood association.

Malkemes said DND's director Sandra Duran visited TNT and the Codman Square Neighborhood Council to gather input for what criteria to include in DND's requests for proposals for the lots, but said he was not sure how much input she had gathered.

"The temperature of the neighbors here was probably not a lot more housing, more like light commercial along there," Malkemes said. "People are sometimes wondering if our voices are really heard," he added. "Do we really shape development? Personally I believe we do have some voice but I'm not sure how loud or quiet that voice is."

The bids will be analyzed and ranked by the Public Facilities Commission according to criteria created with public input. Bidders are sometimes, but not always, asked to present their competing plans to the community and subsequently re-ranked. Highest ranked bidders are recommended and a series of reviews begin to judge the bidders ability to complete the project they proposed.

Cynthia Loesch of the CSNC and Pastor Montgomery of PTAC did not immediately return calls for this article.