Neighbors hear rival plans for key Mattapan site

Community members heard four proposals that would transform the long-abandoned Cote Ford parcels in Mattapan at a public meeting last Thursday. The meeting comes as the city of Boston prepares to select a developer for the blighted plots of land by the end of March. More than 150 people attended the meeting at the Mildred Avenue Community Center.

“Between the developers that were brought to the table, it’s a new partnership. It gave us a well-rounded look at what potential ideas folks would have in Mattapan,” said Donald Wright, deputy director of Real Estate Management and Sales for the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development (DND).

At the meeting, much of the reaction came from residents concerned about toxic chemicals on-site, which is something the designated developer will be required to address. The four parcels along Cummins Highway and Regis Road are currently owned by DND. After last Thursday’s meeting, residents have at least one more week to contact the city and weigh in on the proposal, which can be done via DND’s website or by contacting the DND’s project manager Christopher Rooney at 617-635-0493. Each proposal has been posted at the city website.

Following the comment period, an internal team from DND will vet the proposals, weighing the community’s input, the city’s interests for the site, and other considerations, before selecting the developer. The city hopes to pick the winning bid sometime in mid-March, Wright said. That will then kick off a permitting and financing process with the city before the developer breaks ground.
In an interview, Wright called the four proposals a “good cross section of the neighborhood.”

Corcoran Jennison Associates, a Dorchester-based company with a long track record of mixed-income housing developments, including Harbor Point, has proposed a $33.4 million, three-piece project for the site. Their plan includes 108 apartments on top of 10,000 square feet of commercial space with another 16,616 square feet of green space used as a park at the corner of Regis Road and Cummins Highway.

Under the Corcoran Jennison plan, 16 of the apartments would be subsidized while 92 would be market-rate rentals. The parcel will be developed in three pieces: the Cote Ford building at 820 Cummins Highway, which will be rehabbed and used as a platform to build an additional five-story, elevator accessible building with 11,000 square feet of street-level commercial space, 72 new rental units, 70 covered parking spaces, and a first-floor terrace. The existing structure at 32 Regis Road would be demolished to create three, three-story walk-up townhouses with 12 units each. Twenty-five residential parking spaces will separate the development and the train tracks. Construction would be completed in May 2017.

A second proposal comes from a trio of partners, including Caribbean Integration Community Development, AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust, and Archdiocese Planning Office for Urban Affairs. Their plan calls for a $25.8 million mixed use project to create 70 units of affordable housing. The project details 24 units in town houses along Regis Street and 46 units in a 4-story, double loaded corridor along Cummins Highway, “a more commercial setting,” according to the proposal filed with DND. An additional 5,000 square feet of commercial space would house the Caribbean Integration Community Development offices.

Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation (NDC) has filed a plan that would build 108 units of affordable rental housing on Cummins Highway, plus 29 duplexes and condos for purchase at the Regis Road parcel. The proposal also hinges on three new retail spaces, with one large enough to support an anchor tenant such as a grocery store or drugstore in the first floor of the existing Cote Ford building, with mixed-income rental development above. Given the site’s proximity to the incoming Blue Hill Avenue station on the Fairmount Line, Codman Square NDC hopes to create shared short-term parking space for commuters and residents “to lessen the amount of surface parking and traffic impacts,” they wrote in their bid to DND.

A hand-written proposal from Hyde Park resident Faubert Smith’s 777 Essex Street Realty Trust said he is interested in the site “because of a higher calling,” installing a homeless shelter, a non-denominational church, child and adult daycare, and eventually transforming the parking lot into a school. The $21.6 million proposal, he claimed, would be built by May 31, 2016.

“We’re excited,” Wright said. “Between Cote Ford and 65 East Cottage St. (another city-owned site in Uphams Corner), these are big projects for the city. We’re excited to get them out and see interest from developers and the community.”