Savin Hill hole’s days are numbered

Savin Hole: This prominent “hole” in the Savin Hill business district — right next to the bridge that spans the MBTA tracks and southeast expressway— will soon be replaced with new condominiums and first-floor retail space.  			Bill Forry photoSavin Hole: This prominent “hole” in the Savin Hill business district — right next to the bridge that spans the MBTA tracks and southeast expressway— will soon be replaced with new condominiums and first-floor retail space. Bill Forry photo

The Savin Hill hole’s time will soon come to a close. The longstanding blight on the blooming Savin Hill neighborhood will be filled in by the end of the year, according to its newest owner, Driscoll DoCanto and his business partner, Ken Osherow.

“We are now proud owners of the Savin Hill hole,” DoCanto said with a laugh on Tuesday. He and Osherow purchased the vacant lot from previous owners David Higgins and his business partner earlier this year. All four were previously working as a team to develop the site and plans remain the same: The “hole’ will be filled with 14 units of housing on the second and third floors with retail space on the ground floor.

Construction was supposed to start in late September, but DoCanto now says it will likely start in late October. He said he is “anxious and hopeful,” that “shovels are in the ground before the end of the year.”

Building the mixed-use space with RODE Architects as the designer – the firm’s founders live in the Savin Hill area – is expected to take 12 months.

The initial timeline was pushed back slightly, DoCanto said, as his team worked with a potential retail tenant to configure the space to the tenant’s needs. He was tight-lipped about identifying the tenant just yet.

“In the retail space down below, we’re still trying to figure out the best use,” he said. “We have something in mind that would be beneficial for the community.” The changes are purely to the building’s interior, DoCanto said, and have not affected the exterior design.

The transit-oriented development has posed an interesting challenge for the Savin Hill neighborhood. Located directly across from the Savin Hill T Stop, the hole has sat vacant for years. The project was nearly derailed last year as initial plans to locate parking for the development off-site fell through. This most recent proposal, which would fill in the hole and cantilever two additional floors of housing over the adjacent building, hit a series of road bumps as developers, neighbors, and the city grappled with height, density, and parking.

Developers looked into adding below-grade parking, but found it would be cost-prohibitive. Last November, the Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association voted 43 to 21 to approve the current plan, which maintains the three existing parking spaces currently belonging to Savin Bar and Kitchen. The association, which votes on development proposals in the area, had tentatively withdrawn support for the project after plans for 15 off-site parking spaces at the Spire building, which is currently up for sale, fell through. “We’re hoping that with the new ownership we might be able to go back and revisit the idea of using that as auxiliary parking for folks in our building,” DoCanto said.

Filling the hole next to Savin Bar and Kitchen will mean that there will be just one major blight left on this stretch of Savin Hill Ave. A boarded-up storefront at the corner of Sydney Street and Savin Hill Avenue remains an eyesore.

DoCanto said he does not speak regularly to the current owner of the defunct convenience store— Anthony Demsond— but hopes “he comes around.”

“We would love to see the current owner be a good neighbor and participate in the improvement of Savin Hill,” said DoCanto. Once his development is complete in 2017, DoCanto says, “it will be the only eyesore left.

“It’s going to be even more of an eyesore once we’re done.”