A ‘down payment’ on Greenway trail planned in Mattapan Sq.

The state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation plans to create a new public square through the clean up of a decrepit Mattapan Square building, which once housed a mattress store but has become an eyesore on the city’s doorstep. The agency paid $400,000 for the former furniture store in 2010 and is expected to spend $300,000 to partially demolish and refurbish it this summer.

Joe Orfant, the department’s chief of planning and resource protection, called the work a “down payment” on the completion of the Neponset Greenway trail.

State officials have spent years chasing federal dollars to complete the greenway’s expansion, a project likely to cost $16.8 million. The popular multi-use trail has three missing sections, totaling 4.2 miles: The stretches between Mattapan MBTA Station and Central Ave., from Morrissey Blvd. to Tenean Beach and past the Dorchester Bay gas tank, and a section in Hyde Park, near the Neponset Valley Parkway. About 5 miles of the trail already exist and are heavily used by pedestrians and cyclists.

Orfant said the agency will continue to pursue federal grants while also pushing for funds to be included in the state budget, among other strategies.

“This is just an interim project,” he said of the former mattress building’s refurbishment. “This is just to get it started.”

About 40 to 50 people attended a meeting last week at the Foley Senior Residences to hear DCR’s proposal for the 5,400-square foot site, located at 1674 Blue Hill Ave. State Rep. Russell Holmes, District 4 Councillor Charles Yancey and a representative from state Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry’s office were also in attendance.

The 1,000-square foot former mattress building was built in 1913 for $25,000 and served as a public restroom and the “Blue Hills Flower Shop” for decades before it became a mattress store.

The original building will stay in place, though the attached metal shed and past brick additions will be demolished. The site’s sidewalk is damaged, it has several walls missing and the building is not fully weather-proofed, according to DCR.

The agency also plans to remove graffiti and paint from the site, install an asphalt roof, and add a vinyl wall mural.

The work is expected to start in June or July, and expected to be completed in September or October.
Orfant said DCR will decide what will go in the building after speaking with members of the community.
Vivien Morris, head of the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition, said the rehabilitation of the building is a “positive contribution to the Mattapan community.”

“We want the greenway completed,” she said. “We want investment on the Mattapan side of the river and that’s definitely a piece of that, to remove the eyesore.”

But Morris said her group and supporters of the greenway want to see the Central Ave. to Mattapan Square stretch be made “shovel-ready.”

“That’s not being made shovel-ready, from a planning perspective, and we’re disappointed in that, but we are happy the removal-of-the-eyesore piece is moving forward,” she said.