Fields Corner area chosen for widespread restoration

Historic Boston Inc., the non-profit that restored the Globe bookstore to its current glory downtown, has set its sights on more than a local landmark. It will focus its considerable resources on bringing several key buildings in Fields Corner up to snuff for the history buff.

As part of a new initiative on historic neighborhood incentives, HBI asked all 19 of Boston's Main Streets programs to submit expressions of interest in historic preservation for their local buildings and storefronts. Eight returned applications, including one produced by Viet-AID and Fields Corner Main Streets. HBI chose Fields and another proposal from Hyde Park Main Streets for the extensive projects.

"We've generally dealt at a building-by-building level, we've never dealt with a district-wide level," said HBI executive director Kathy Kottardis. "The board wanted to move more in this direction to really see the effect in the neighborhoods. This is really the first venture into that area."

A few hidden gems caught Kottardis' eye, including the Robinson Block, a two-story 1872 stucco building with a curvy façade on the intersection of Dorchester Avenue and Adams Street, two buildings that house Hi-Fi Pizza Pie and Bargain City, from 1500 to 1514 on Dorchester, and a building at 1400 Dorchester owned by Fields Corner CDC.

The help HBI brings could range from technical assistance, passive investment and a few small grants to HBI buying buildings, restoring them and reselling at a later date. In some cases, such as that of the Hi-Fi Pizza Pie building that also includes the Kit Clark Senior Center, it might be as easy as removing the metal false front and sprucing up the older façade behind, in others it might include major investment in a complete restoration. The work is aimed at revitalizing the business district, and together with the reconstruction of sidewalks and street furniture of Dorchester Avenue in the Dot Ave Project, could mean a whole new look for the corner in a few years time.

Kottardis also mentioned a hidden landmark in the corner. Behind the post office there is a smaller building that was built in the 18th century as Field's General Store, a landmark that gave the corner its name.

"It's one of the oldest buildings in the neighborhood. It would be an interesting one to get at," said Kottardis.

In cooperation with Viet-AID and Field Corner Main Streets, a series of open-to-the-community design charrettes will be announced over the next few months, to invite residents to help HBI identify what the neighborhood values and wants to preserve. Then, over the next two to five years, the plan will be put into action.

"It's really exciting," said Evelyn Darling of FCMS. "They've been around a long time and they are a proven developer of historic projects. I think it's really great for Fields Corner. We need the assistance they can provide."