DOT Block project hits property snag; we’re moving ahead, developers assert

Plans for the DOT Block development are being adjusted after the owner of three properties at the corner of Dorchester Avenue and Hancock Street backed away from an agreement to sell them to the project’s developers.

The new wrinkle was revealed on Monday at the Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association monthly meeting where developers updated some 35 residents on the overall project.

The three properties on that corner – currently a bakery, a senior care service facility, and a bar – were under an agreement to sell by the owner on the condition that all current residents be relocated by the DOT Block group, said Catherine O’Neill, who is representing the developers in the community.

The developers were working on relocating tenants and asked for a 90-day extension to complete the effort, which they “didn’t think was beyond the pale,” O’Neill said. But the extension was not considered acceptable by the owner, she said, and the selling agreement was rescinded. The project financiers still own a gas station at the corner, but its placement and shape make connecting the lot as it is with the rest of DOT Block impractical. “Every project goes through ebbs and flows,” said Eric Robinson of RODE Architects, the development’s design firm. Although developers remain hopeful that an arrangement can be worked out with the landowner, or that a redesign will incorporate the oddly shaped gas station property into the overall scheme, they are moving forward without the corner.

If nothing changes, the new look will be an area of similar style but smaller in scale. No significant redesigns are anticipated, though adjustments will need to be made along the area’s Dorchester Avenue face. About 345 units in a mix of rentals, condominiums, and affordable housing will be built, down from 429, and 79,000 square feet of retail space will likely be adjusted to about 43,000 square feet, Robinson said.

The five-story parking structure, which will contain some of the 450 or so parking spots on the site, is on the unchanged portion of the lot, but planners suggested that they may make alterations to the interior if they want to keep the overall scale of the building. Over an acre of green space remains in the plan, including some built into the proposed structures.

For the moment, said O’Neill, “we believe we still have a very exciting and viable project.”

Although some at the meeting expressed concerns about traffic flow – and one man questioned the appearance of the development as not looking “like Dorchester” – the prevailing sentiment from attendees was one of support. The project is centered in an industrial area, which could use rejuvenation respecting the priorities of the neighborhood, some said.

“This is a sort of natural process,” Robinson said, adding that the developer group is “optimistic that [the lots] will come back.”

In other meeting matters:

• Members were told of “a rash of scams” where individuals posing as Eversource employees were asking for personal information. Attendees were warned that they should be vigilant and ask questions to ensure the legitimacy of any solicitors.

• City Councillor at-large Michael Flaherty, City Councillor Frank Baker, and David Cotter, the Dorchester liaison for the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, attended the meeting.

• Baker, who is running for re-election in November against challenger Donnie Palmer, discussed improvements near the JFK/UMass station. In general, Baker said, Dorchester is becoming increasingly desirable for renters and developers alike, which brings with it significant advantages and pitfalls. “A lot of people who have been here forever... now those people can’t buy,” he said.

• Looking to tackle neighborhood worries over residential development, the association is going to organize a new committee that will bring concerns and recommendations to the Boston Redevelopment Authority.