Columbia-Savin Hill kicks off ’18 with development in mind

One of the developments that the Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association is watching closely is a plan to re-develop 959 Dorchester Ave., currently home to Tom English’s Bar and the Dorchester Market. The existing buildings would be replaced with a new mixed-used residential building with ground commercial space. Bill Forry photo

The Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association had a double-tap of monthly meetings as it kicked off its civic calendar, offering its membership updates on development projects and setting the stage for the year to come.

Nordblom Co., which purchased the 16.5-acre former Boston Globe site for $81 million with partner firm Alcion Ventures in late December, will return to the civic group with a more concrete proposal in February, according to civic president Desmond Rohan.

Another major parcel in flux, the former Bayside Expo Center site, will get a community update next month, Rohan said. The University of Massachusetts Building Authority (UMBA), which controls the 20-acre swath of prime waterfront land, received 16 developer responses to their request for information envisioning a modern Harvard-square. A UMBA representative is expected to come to the civic group for an update at the February meeting.

Though just outside of their jurisdiction, the group is monitoring plans for an expansion of the Mary Ellen McCormack complex in South Boston.

WinnCompanies expects to add 2,000 new units of housing to the site, which Rohan said could involve some buildings that rise up to 32-stories.

Columbia-Savin Hill sits at the top edge of the PLAN: Glover’s Corner study area, which is primed to reshape the largely-industrial Dorchester Avenue spine between Fields Corner and Savin Hill. Civic leaders reminded their membership to attend a Wednesday evening community discussion on the planning area, hosted by the Boston Planning and Development Agency.

Affordable housing and equity advocates interrupted a meeting in November geared toward transit to protest what they feel has been an opaque planning process that disregards input from the community. The group, which goes by the name Dorchester Not For Sale, said on social media that they would be present at the Wednesday meeting.

The Boston Parks and Recreation Department is hosting several community meetings about area parks, including McConnell Park. McConnell Park is slated for a $3 million upgrade under the city budget — the topic of a meeting in May 2017 where neighbors said the park suffers from difficult parking and drainage issues, as well as being in need of updated amenities and more regular maintenance. Another community meeting is planned for Thursday, Jan. 25.

A new long-term planning committee, headed by Don Walsh, has identified five distinct areas to focus on over the course of two meetings. They include the Morrissey Boulevard and Mt. Vernon Street corridors; the Crescent Avenue and Sydney Street intersection, where they would like to see improved access to the JFK/UMass as part of any new development; and the Glover’s Corner planning area. The next meeting of the planning commitee is Jan. 24 in the basement of the Savin Bar and Kitchen on Savin Hill Avenue.

“What we’re trying do is get ahead of some of the development projects here, ad note what we’d like to see in certain areas,” he said. For the next general membership meeting, “we hope to have specifics” on ideal density, height, and other development characteristics, Walsh said, “and in a couple months we hope to have a vote.”

Another of the parcels they are watching, 959 Dorchester Ave., would replace Tom English’s Bar and the Dorchester Market with a mixed-used residential building with ground commercial space.

Property owner Adam Sarbaugh and his team did not present to the planning committee on Tuesday, writing in a an email that they planned to file with the Inspectional Services Department this week. As presented last, the development would include a tiered five-story design at the corner of E. Cottage Street and Dorchester Avenue, with a ground-floor restaurant and rehabbed Dorchester Market under 38 residential units.

And a long-standing dispute over billboards may finally see some movement this year, civic leaders said. City planning officials will convene meetings on a cohesive billboard policy in the coming months, they said, working to end a standoff with Dorchester civic groups who have collectively refused to support new billboards until the city came up with a uniform plan.