Dot Ave's newest address offers big views, convenience

The Carruth houses a mix of retail and residential units. Photo by Chris Lovett

From this perch on a balcony six stories up over Dot Ave., the neighborhood looks different. The first thing you notice, aside from the bustle of back-hoes and commuters at the Ashmont Station construction site just below your feet, are the trees. This end of Dorchester is downright leafy, you realize, especially as your eyes turn to the south and the undulating vista of the Blue Hills on the horizon. To the north is the sweep of the city's skyline, interrupted only by the red brick of the Englewood apartments on the other side of Peabody Square.

The view, in all directions, is spectacular. And that includes the interior space behind you, with bright bamboo floors and sparkling Bosch appliances.

Welcome to The Carruth, the newest landmark on Dorchester Avenue. If you had been lucky enough to snatch one of its affordable apartment spaces on floors 1-4 (roughly $1100 a month), this might've been home. And it still could be, if you're in the market for a premium condominium in the $200-400 thousand range. There are 42 units for sale in The Carruth's fifth and sixth floors and all but four of them are still up for grabs.

Part of the attraction of this place is what's happening on the street level, where a blend of retail shops and a signature Chris Douglass restaurant, Tavolo, are now being outfitted. Wainwright Bank will anchor the front-end of the building, sharing space with Flat Black, perculators of the popular Lower Mills café. On the other end of the block, Douglass is busy overseeing the construction of his second neighborhood eatery, one that he says will complement the Ashmont Grill across the street. The pasta, pizza and salad joint - with a long, island-styled bar in the front - promises to further funkify the bustling corner.

Two years ago, this place was a forlorn corner of a forgettable MBTA yard, a place where taxis turned around or idled as they waited for weary passengers too tired or wet to wait for a bus ride home. Concrete poured in the 1960s crumbled underfoot.

When former MBTA general manager Michael Mulhern decided to sell this slice of Ashmont station off to a private developer, there were few takers. Only one, in fact, actually submitted a bid back in 2002. It came from Trinity Financial, the real estate outfit honchoed by Ashmont Hill resident Jim Keefe. Keefe and his Trinity project manager Vince Droser had a vision for the place - and together with neighborhood activists - worked closely with the T to make sure the finished product would complement the new station, still underway next door.

And while the new station - which remains open to the 17,000 people who use it each day as work proceeds - is still a year away from completion, the verdict on the Carruth building is starting to come in.

"It really is a landmark, not just because it's big, but because it's beautiful," says Dan Larner, exuective director of the St. Mark's Area Main Street. Larner likes the building so much that his organization just re-located to a small first floor space just opposite the station.

" Everyone remembers what it used to be: It was a huge hole in the streetscape, with no activity. Now we'll have over 100 new families living right in the square, which is great for the life of the neighborhood. At night especially it could be a very uninviting place. Now, it's a real village," Larner says.

Larry Gettings, the realtor from At-Home Realty who is marketing the condos, says that he's started to see a churn of activity at the building's regular Sunday open houses.

"I think people are blown away by the level of construction," Gettings says. "It feels like a lot of times in Dorchester you're looking at older construction with a lot of squeaks and rattles."

Then there are the views.

"Sometimes, you buy a condo here in Dorchester and you're looking at a view into someone's kitchen or backyard. These units have sweeping views of the city and the Blue Hills and some units have up to three balconies."

Gettings says that as the new station starts to come together next door - and the retail spaces on the first floor morph from empty storefronts into neighborhood hot-spots - he expects even more takers.

"I don't think people really understood the whole concept when it was going up. It's kind of tough to see how it fits together."