With the latest section of the Neponset River Greenway now open to the public, a historic building that once housed a comfort station in Mattapan Square remains unused.
The structure, located at 1674 Blue Hill Ave., 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 DCR bought the building for $400,000 in 2010.
Although the DCR continues to welcome community input, the last formal public meeting about the building’s future use was held over four years ago, on May 9, 2013.
According to Reporter archives, around 40 or 50 people attended to hear the DCR’s proposal for the 5,400-square foot site. The reception appeared positive.
The DCR first described its project to the Boston Conservation Commission at a meeting on April 3, 2013. At the time, the department proposed the construction of “The Plaza at Mattapan Square,” which would “provide more aesthetically pleasing public open space in Mattapan Square by demolishing additions to the historic building as well as two other existing buildings, preserving the original historic building, and installing pavers and decorative landscaping.”
Fixing up the old station that summer was considered a way to get the Neponset River Greenway project started as the DCR was still seeking funds, according to Reporter archives.
By the spring of 2014, the DCR had invested approximately $500,000 in asbestos abatement, selective demolition, and stabilization of the building for future use, DCR spokesman Mark Steffen said in an e-mail to the Reporter on Tuesday.
Steffen added that at the time, project goals included preparing the site to “function as a gateway to the Neponset Greenway,” creating a small public site for temporary uses, and improving the appearance of the area. One resident at the 2013 meeting told the Reporter the old building was an “eyesore.”
Although the partial renovation over the summer was a success, the site seems to have taken a backseat since then. The DCR turned its attention to other projects, notably the Neponset Greenway itself. The latest stretch, connecting Pope John Paul II Park and Mattapan Square, just opened in May. How residents use the path will likely influence the DCR’s future work on the old building.
“The DCR appreciates community interest in utilizing the building to potentially add new concessions or other services along the Neponset Greenway and remains open to working with stakeholders to accomplish that goal,” Steffen said in his e-mail.
Vivian Ortiz of Mattapan Food and Fitness, who is also a member of the Neponset River Greenway Council, said the comfort station has not been brought up in recent meetings. Like the DCR, the council has mostly focused on the new Greenway link.
“It’s been more about the opening of the path,” Ortiz said. “This part of it [near Mattapan Square] and the part that was at Port Norfolk, what’s going to happen to that is not something that I think — we ask about it just among ourselves. ... As far as bringing it to DCR or bringing it to elected officials, we haven’t done that more formally.”
She added that council members talk among themselves about the comfort station, but the issue has not been formally raised to DCR representatives or elected officials. However, she may add it to future meeting agendas.
“We have outstanding items on the agenda every month that we just kind of check in on,” Ortiz said.