New group formed to push business in ‘Savin Hill Village’

By 
Mike Deehan, Special to the Reporter
Jan. 27, 2011

The effort to improve the quality of life in Savin Hill is taking a formalized step with the creation of a new committee focused on development along the neighborhood’s business district.

The Savin Hill Village Business Development Committee, formed as a sub-committee of the Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association planning board, is dedicated to making improvements along what they are calling “Savin Hill Village,” the stretch of Savin Hill Ave. from the MBTA station to the corner of Saxton St. After a brief organizational meeting late last year, the new group held its first formal meeting Monday evening at the offices of At Home Reality.

“What we’re saying is that we have a nice thing that could be better,” Don Walsh, a local resident and organizer of the group said in an interview with the Reporter.

“There’s a delicate balance in some ways between what the community wants in services and what the businesses provide,” said Eric Robinson, who chaired the meeting and helped organize the committee. Robinson’s architecture firm, RODE, has worked on businesses and residences in the neighborhood.

“We see this as... sort of a resource for the businesses that have invested in the area,” Robinson said.

The new group’s goals are both long and short term. They hope to improve the general character of the “business node” along Savin Hill Ave. by working on everything from litter pick up and traffic safety to sidewalk and road renovation. Filling each storefront is also a priority as there are currently a few business locations lacking tenents. Group organizers hope that bringing in new businesses will better serve the needs and demands of the neighborhood.

One such new business is Savin Hill Supply, a food shop that offers a selection of breads, cheeses and other specialty foods that can be hard to find in Dorchester. Owner Kristine Hoag attended the meeting and described her experience running the shop to the group.

The committee is beginning to study specifics of the area that could help them with development. A team was assigned to produce a spreadsheet listing businesses and residences in the area, traffic flow, MBTA rider statistics and other information.

One of the major projects the committee hopes to take up is to spur the development of a vacant lot located just before the overpass leading across the Expressway. It was with this lot in mind that Walsh suggested the civic association form the new committee.

“Let’s have the civic association work with the city to do something with that site,” Walsh said. Neighbors have had their eye on the site for years since the collapse of a former food market left the lot vacant, with jersey barriers separating the street from what is essentially a hole in the ground.

If the committee’s work is successful, Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association president Maureen McQuillen sees potential for similar efforts in other parts of the Columbia-Savin Hill area. Robinson and Walsh expressed interest in having the group be scalable and able to take on other challenges, such as expansion to Dorchester Ave. and beyond. The eleven attendees at the meeting arrived at the “Savin Hill Village Business Development Committee” name after deciding that efforts in any additional areas would operate under different names.

Walsh described the goals of the group as similar to a “mini Main Street” organization, but said that there were no plans to actively pursue as official designation by the Main Streets program.

“We have an opportunity here to do something that’s a little different and it could always tie in to Main St. programs,” meeting attendee Bruce Shatswell said.