Mayor nudges businesses to look to city sites for development

More than 300,000 square feet of city-owned property, including Mattapan’s Cote Ford site, will be converted into commercial space, Mayor Martin Walsh said on Tuesday. Hoping to raise the profile of the sites and spur interest in development possibilities, Walsh highlighted the Department of Neighborhood Development’s efforts in his first speech as mayor to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce at the Westin Copley Place Hotel.

Talking about his vision for neglected sites downtown and elsewhere, Walsh said, “It’s inclusive, seeding growth in every neighborhood, and connecting our young people to career pathways.”

Sheila Dillon, the city’s neighborhood development chief, said she and the mayor are encouraged by the amount of interest they’ve received so far from developers and small businesses. “There’s enormous amounts of potential in our neighborhoods and a lot of buying power in our neighborhoods,” she said.

City Hall officials have singled out eight parcels in Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury for transition. They include 719 Washington Street, which is on the market; 10-30 Bowdoin Street, which has a request for proposals (RFP) imminent; 2147-2163 Washington Street, which also has an imminent RFP; Cote Ford on Regis Road, which has an RFP underway; 65 East Cottage Street, with an RFP underway; and the Uphams Corner Comfort Station at 611 Columbia Road, which also has an RFP underway. The Archer Bonnell site and the Yeoman-Hampden site, both in Roxbury, are also in the mix.

The two largest sites are Cote Ford, which has 119,945 square feet, and 65 East Cottage Street, also known as the Maxwell Building, which has 120,238 square feet. Local residents stopped city officials last year from turning the Maxwell Building, located next to the Uphams Corner commuter rail station, into a Department of Public Works facility for storing light poles. The building once housed a box company and was acquired by the city after the owner did not pay back taxes.

Cote Ford, once the site of a car dealership, is close to the proposed site for the Blue Hill Avenue commuter rail station, a part of the Fairmount Line.

During his talk, Walsh also touched on the creation of new jobs within his administration and union contract negotiations. The former labor leader and Dorchester state representative said the “trust we established with our public employee unions has liberated our finances from an endless cycle of standoffs.” The mayor and the city’s firefighters union, Local 718, which has its headquarters in Dorchester, have agreed months into Walsh’s term to a potential 18.8 percent boost over six years. “There was no magic formula – just mutual respect,” Walsh said. “We showed that we respect public employees. And the unions showed that they respect the city’s finances.” Walsh noted that two city unions remain in negotiations: Boston Police Department detectives and ambulance drivers.

Walsh also highlighted two new positions within the administration: The first is chief digital officer, who will “re-imagine and integrate the city’s public interfaces, including the city of Boston website, TV station, and social media presence,” according to City Hall’s press office. The second is the position of senior adviser for regulatory reform, a bid to streamline the city’s fragmented zoning and permitting processes.