Renovations to a key commercial building in Fields Corner are underway this month as four new tenants prepare to open up shop along Dorchester Avenue. The building, which once housed the defunct Emerald Isle bar and Yum-Yum Chinese restaurant, has undergone a “gut-rehab” in recent months.
The 6,000-square-foot building carries a Faulkner Street address, but its five retail spaces face a bustling stretch of Dorchester Avenue in the heart of the business district. The building abuts the popular Blarney Stone restaurant, which has thrived in spite of the still-forlorn exterior of its next-door neighbor.
A trio of new owners – Ted Ahern and brothers Brendan and Greg Feeney – purchased the building last January for an undisclosed price. The city of Boston’s Assessing office values the property at $618,500. Both Ahern and the Feeney brothers – who operate a Fields Corner-based excavation company with more than 200 employees – are experienced and respected property owners with deep roots in the neighborhood. Ahern is a native of the Bowdoin-Geneva section and lives in Dorchester.
“This building was dilapidated and sitting in the middle of the business district. We think it’s a good piece of property that really needed a total rehab,” explained Ahern, who frequented the Fields Corner block as a youngster. “Our main focus is to bring retail back into Fields Corner.”
In recent years, the property had become most notable for what was no longer there: The fading green signage of the long-shuttered Emerald Isle was the only remnant of what was once a busy watering hole for hordes of Dorchester and suburban 20-somethings. In an earlier incarnation, the bar was known as the “All-Ireland,” a haven for undocumented Irish immigrants in the 1980s. “If you needed a job, you went to the All-Ireland,” said Ahern. “It was definitely our local for a long time – until they did over the Blarney Stone.”
Among the new tenants set to move into the restored building over the next few months is a T-Mobile store that will anchor the corner next to Faulkner Street; a take-out only Chinese fast food eatery that will be run by new owners; and a new restaurant called Boston Burger and Chicken. An existing Fields Corner business, Valente Insurance, will relocate from another storefront to the renovated space by the summer.
Karlene Valente has run the insurance firm in the neighborhood for 25 years.
“It’s the best of both worlds for us,” explained Valente. “It’s an old Dorchester building that’s being beautifully renovated. It keeps us in Fields Corner with all of our customers, but it’s beautiful with the stonework that’s being added.”
Matt Spain, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Wireless Store, Inc.— the company that will operate the T-Mobile store— expects that it will open for business on April 18 with nine full-time employees.
“Fields Corner was an obvious choice because of the extensive revitalization happening in Fields Corner and more specifically our building, 1493 Dorchester Ave. Until now, there has not been any good real estate options, but we have found a home run at 1493,” Spain said.
Ben Johnson, who co-owns the Blarney Stone, said that he and other merchants are “very excited” that Ahern and the Feeneys are renovating the building.
“That’s how you build neighborhoods, one block at a time,” said Johnson. “It makes the area a destination more than anything. They’ve taken their time to find good tenants and done their research. I think what Teddy and the [Feeneys] are putting in will be good businesses with bigger staff and people who will spend money in the area.”
Rosanne Foley, the interim executive director of Fields Corner Main Streets, said that the revitalization of the building will resolve one of the district’s most pressing development problems. “As the district has been improved through the storefront project it’s really become obvious which are the last remaining gaps,” said Foley. “This will really help fill one of the major gaps.
Ahern said that the building currently has one vacancy: a 1,025 square-foot storefront remains available for lease. Work on the building, he said, will be 100 percent complete by June 1.