Four Corners could benefit most from action plan

The Boston Redevelopment Authority and the Department of Neighborhood Development began seeking input this week for the Mid-Dorchester Action Plan, a plan designed to attract developers to vacant lots in busy neighborhood shopping areas.

Mid-Dorchester Plan: Could benefit Four Corners in particular.Mid-Dorchester Plan: Could benefit Four Corners in particular.The plan, as previously reported, is aimed at finding uses for city-owned lots in three business districts - Codman Square, Bowdoin-Geneva and Four Corners - using business analysis and market assessments, but as maps released by the BRA this week showed, it is likely to have the most impact in Four Corners.

While Codman and Bowdoin-Geneva each hold only a handful of city-owned vacant lots along their main business streets, Four Corners has 20, along with several foreclosed and tax delinquent properties. Several of disused properties could be combined into large, highly developable lots.

But all three areas will ultimately benefit from the study, which outside of the vacant lot element, is akin to efforts put forth by Main Streets groups trying to establish where customers in a particular district are coming from geographically and what types of businesses they are looking for, but might not be able to find.

A similar survey earlier this decade by JP Centre/South Main Streets in Jamaica Plain found a need for sandwich shops, and now two, The Real Deal and City Feed and Supply - both small local chains - are thriving on Centre Street.

JP has re-created a pedestrian-friendly business environment along Centre and South streets, a situation similar to what Codman used to have, according to native Jim Martin&emdash;who attended the first Mid-Dot Action Plan meeting at the Codman Tech Center last Thursday.

"What's helping Centre Street grow is what used to be in Codman Square, residents support their local business district," said Martin. "The problem that you have now is people don't use public transportation anymore. Everybody's driving cars."

Through their questions, the small crowd of around 25 convinced the BRA's Jeremy Rosenberger and the DND's Carl Hyman, who are heading up the project, to include transportation mode share in their market assessment.

That sort of input is precisely what they're looking for at this stage, said the two.

In future meetings, large lots might be packaged together and designated as open to certain types of businesses defined by the community, said Rosenberger, while smaller lots might be paired with existing businesses or turned into open space.

By spring, the two hope to have developed some preliminary use and design guidelines using community input, and by June, a full planning report for each district that could be used to market lots to developers.

To acquire the properties, developers would respond to requests for proposals published by the DND. Bids would be judged not by the amount of money offered alone, but also by how closely the bid reflected the community's wish for the site and several other factors.

The first meetings for the Action Plan in Codman and Bowdoin-Geneva happened last Thursday and Monday. The Four Corners meeting is scheduled for tonight at the Codman Tech Center, 450 Washington St., at 6:30 p.m.