City is weighing four plans for use of key Mattapan site

An image from the city of Boston request for proposals shows the Cote Ford property in Mattapan as seen from Cummins Highway. Image courtesy City of Boston

Four proposals have been submitted to the city of Boston by development teams eager to build a mix of housing and retail on the site of a long-empty Mattapan car dealership.

The Cote Ford property on Cummins Highway is situated close to a planned new station on the Fairmount commuter rail line, prompting renewed interest in what has been a forlorn corner of the neighborhood for decades.

“The majority of applications were very strong and we’re excited that people are seeing this as an opportunity,” said Sheila Dillon, the chief of the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development (DND), which owns the property. “We’re seeing some very good [Transit Oriented Development] proposals with a mix of residential and commercial uses.”

The agency issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) earlier this year and held a community meeting last March to explain its hopes for selling off the four parcels that make up the site, which is dominated by the former car dealership.

The parcels — comprising a combined total of 113,695 square feet— were taken by the city in 2010 and 2011 in tax-foreclosure actions. The bulk of the land sits along the MBTA-owned right-of-way for the Fairmount corridor, not far from where a new $40 million station will be built by 2017. The RFP lists an asking price of $1.8 million for the parcels.

According to summaries provided by DND, the four proposals submitted include:
• A plan by the Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation (NDC) to create a mixed-use development with 108 rental units and 29 “homeownership units”— all of which will be marketed as affordable— along with three commercial spaces;

• A plan submitted by the Corcoran Jennison Companies for a mixed-use development with 92 market-rate rental units, 16 affordable rental units, and 11,000 square feet of commercial space, along with a neighborhood park.

• A plan by three partners— Caribbean Integration Community Development, AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust, and the Planning Office for Urban Affairs for Archdiocese of Boston calls for seven market rate rental units, 63 affordable rental units, 5,000 square feet of commercial space, an outdoor recreational area, and “possibly a future pre-teen activity center.”

• A fourth proposal— submitted by Faubert Smith Trustee and 777 Essex Realty Trust— outline a wide range of commercial and church-related uses, including a homeless shelter. The proponents— who list an address on Vose Ave. in Hyde Park— could not be reached for comment.

The four parcels that make up the Cote site are located in a “Gateway Development Area Overlay District”— a zoning designation that is intended to encourage “the development of buildings that serve as distinctive visual cues to signify the entrance to the commercial areas of Mattapan,” according to a DND document. The overlay district will give new owners the right to build new buildings that could rise up to four or five stories tall, depending on the overall size of the project.

“We are starting to review the proposals with a team here,” said Dillon. “We will bring out the proposals that meet our thresholds to the community for a full vetting as well.”

After input from the community, the city’s Public Facilities Commission will vote on which development team will be awarded the right to buy the properties.

Gail Latimore, the executive director of Codman Square NDC, said this week that the proposal was a “natural outgrowth” of the work the NDC already does in Mattapan. Codman Square NDC is a partner in the management of 101 units of housing in the Olmsted Green development on the Dorchester-Mattapan line and has partnered with other CDCs to study and encourage the creation of new Fairmount Line stations.

“This is the first real opportunity for a large scale project to create that urban village feel with commercial as well. We are really concerned about affordability and making sure that as much of the development that opens at the new stop are affordable housing developments. We’re very concerned about gentrification and displacement along the Fairmount corridor.

Joseph J. Corcoran, principal of the Corcoran Jennison Companies— which built and manages the Harbor Point community in Dorchester, among many other properties— said that he believes Mattapan is ready for “workforce” housing that can appeal to a broader mix of income levels.

“It’s a great neighborhood and Mattapan Square is vibrant,” said Corcoran. “We think workforce, market-rate housing will work there because of that neighborhood and we think the Fairmount train station will add to those attributes.”