A breakthrough in Mattapan Square

It may seem like just another mixed-use development in a city skyline cluttered with cranes. But this week’s news that the MBTA has finally awarded rights to lease and build on several parcels it owns next to the Mattapan Square T station is a big deal in our neighborhood.

For one thing, Mattapan has not seen its fair share of these sorts of “transit-oriented” developments (TOD). Now, with this site disposition in particular, Mattapan Square is poised to see some much-needed investment, new housing units, and new commercial space.

On three occasions over the last decade, the MBTA sought a private partner to build on the parking lot next to the trolley and the bus depot along River Street. The property seemed ready-made for the kind of successful TOD project that has worked so well at Ashmont station, where the splendid Carruth building rose from a forlorn parking lot in 2007.

But two attempts to find a developer through “requests for proposals” failed. In one instance, a slumping economy doomed the enterprise. In another, no bidders stepped forward to make a play for the site.

In 2014, the MBTA was approached to sell the land for $1.5 million to a Hyde Park-based charter school looking for a new permanent home in the Mattapan area. While it was a well-intentioned effort, it was the wrong site for a school. Once alerted to the potential sale by articles in the Reporter Mattapan’s elected officials and civic leaders blocked the deal and insisted that the MBTA put out a third RFP to seek a partner who would bring River Street what it really needs: a mixed-use project that will add jobs, a tax base, and housing.

The MBTA listened and its patience and diligence has now led to a much better deal for all involved.

The winning proposal put forward by the Boston-based Preservation of Affordable Housing Inc. (POAH) and backed by Roxbury’s Nuestra Comunidad Development Corporation will fetch an additional $3 million for the state coffers (on top of the minimum $1.5 million bid) in lease payments over the next 20 years. It will also bring in payments to the city in the form of tax dollars on the commercial and residential space, which will include 135 units of housing.

Key details about how this project will best serve Mattapan still need to be worked out— and they will be through the BRA’s Article 80 process, which will need to give oversight to such a large project. But this is already a win for the neighborhood: A parking lot that mostly goes unfilled will soon be occupied by a far better use that will help to fuel improvements in Mattapan and beyond.
– Bill Forry

Make that ‘Lucy’s’ in Adams Corner

The eatery under construction in what was once a Hollywood Video store in Adams Corner is changing its name from Sam Maverick’s to Lucy’s American Tavern, according to Shawn Ahern, one of the owners. The revised name is a homage to Lucy Stone, the famed suffragist and abolitionist who was a longtime resident of Dorchester’s Pope’s Hill neighborhood. She was also the first woman in Massachusetts to earn a college degree.

“While she wasn’t from Dorchester originally, she was a long-term resident of the neighborhood and is one of the really important historical figures from here,” said Ahern. “We wanted to really connect with the neighborhood and thought using the name “Lucy” is a great way to do that.”
– Maureen Forry-Sorrell