MBTA opening up its Mattapan lot to development bids

Community members and developers will get another swing at what will happen to the MBTA lot near the Mattapan Square trolley stop when the transit authority re-issues a Request for Proposals (RFP) on the property on Nov. 18.

The lot will be combined with two other smaller parcels situated at and around the parking lot at Mattapan Station, as well as portions of an adjacent busway, according to the RFP. In total, some 2.48 acres of land will be open for potential bidders and community involvement in the process.

“This has been a project that has been years in the making,” said state Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry. The MBTA issued RFPs in 2007 and 2012; a 2007 bid from a community development corporation fell through during the recession, and no proposals were submitted in 2012.

A 2014 attempt to turn the then-1.75-acre swath of land off River Street into the new base for the Boston Preparatory Charter School in Hyde Park was turned back by public opposition.

“Elected officials and the community requested that the MBTA not convey the property for a proposed charter school,” said MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo in an email.  “They requested that the property be used for a development that would generate economic returns for the community, including jobs, housing, commercial/retail, etc.”

State Rep. Dan Cullinane and Dorcena Forry objected vocally to the charter school proposal, for which no public comment was solicited. “I was opposed to the sale to the charter school because there was no community process and no community voice in the sale,” Cullinane said on Tuesday. Both he and Dorcena Forry point to the burst of investment in Mattapan as the sign that there is real interest in the community for development.

The lot lies in close proximity to work on the so-called “missing link” in the Neponset River Greenway trail between Pope John Paul Park II and Mattapan Square, which is due to be completed next spring.
“We hope that will be incorporated,” said Dorcena Forry, for whom the trail completion has been a priority. As the trail will pass over the trolley stop, and bring with it a string of commuters on foot and on bicycle, potential development, she said, “is going to be an additional asset and beneficial to Mattapan.”

Community groups are preparing themselves for the opportunity. The Nuestra Comunidad Development Corporation is scheduled to host a meeting next Thursday (Nov. 19)  from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Saint Angela’s Parish.

Mark Matel, real estate development project manager with Nuestra Comunidad, said the goal of the meeting will be to help “generate ideas with the community” for the space, to ensure “there’s a relationship between the development and community.” This would avoid confusion on both sides regarding priorities and involved parties, he said.

Transit-oriented development is an idea supported by officials and residents for its potential to present opportunities for affordable housing units over a floor of commercial space.  Most importantly, they say, openness will; be a must as the process rolls forward.

“My highest priority is making sure the residents and stakeholders have access to a transparent process,” said Cullinane. “Mattapan’s a gateway to the city of Boston; it’s always been a great community. … It’s to the credit of so many dedicated community activists and community partners there that it’s finally being recognized.”