DOT Block, South Bay on BRA agenda today

A rendering of the proposed South Bay Town Center project that will be reviewed for approval by the BRA board today.

Two major Dorchester developments, DOT Block in Glover’s Corner and the South Bay Town Center expansion, are on the agenda at the Boston Redevelopment Authority/EDIC Board monthly meeting tonight (May 12).

DOT Block, which includes 362 units of mixed-income housing, some 40,000 square feet of retail space between Hancock Street and Dorchester Avenue, and a five-story parking garage for some 450 vehicles, is being recommended for board approval while developers of the South Bay project are requesting approval of their development plan.

Speaking before the Dorchester Board of Trade on Tuesday, Mayor Martin Walsh said both sprawling, mixed-use projects reflect increased investment in the neighborhood, in keeping with the city’s development boom.

“When you look at these two projects combined – 837 units of housing, 600,000 square feet of commercial floor space, over $350 million of total investment in Dorchester – “if you think about what’s happening, that wasn’t happening five years ago,” the mayor said. “There was conversation and we talked about how we wanted it to happen, but it wasn’t happening at that level.”

The South Bay Town Center development is being advanced by Edens, the company that owns the adjacent South Bay Mall. Plans call for four buildings with a combination of residential, retail, and parking; and a hotel with approximately 130 rooms and structured parking. Of the project’s 475 residential units, 62 will be affordable housing.

Responding to a letter from the South Bay project’s Impact Advisory Group (IAG), Edens updated its offer for community mitigation. A copy distributed by the Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association at its May meeting mentioned $1,237,500 being offered as community benefits as well as agreements for physical improvements to the area.

Edens has agreed to provide $212,500 in upfront funding for: Clifford Park Playground Renovations ($25,000), Boston Street Security Initiatives ($15,000), the Dorchester Historical Society ($100,000) and other recipients ($72,500) to be finalized at a later point.

In addition, the letter noted, Edward Everett Square and Boston Street will received annual contributions over a 25-year period of $5,000 and $2,500 for beautification and maintenance. This funding, $225,000 in all, would be reviewed annually.

Edens noted that its agreement on mitigation was dependent upon its being able to proceed through the existing draft development process (DPIR), adding that the company felt that after this level of community input, requiring a final report (FPIR) with additional analysis after this point would be “not only completely unnecessary but a waste of time, money and resources for the community and EDENS.”

The developers also addressed the “overwhelming concern” from the advisory group regarding a Boston Street Bypass Road that would mean constructing West Howell Street as a two-way road. The road will remain one-way inbound, and the bypass will connect the development to nearby Frontage Road to avoid undue traffic on Boston Street.

With respect to the DOT Block proposal, Davida Andelman of the Greater Bowdoin/Geneva Neighborhood Association and Janet Jones of the Dorchester Roxbury Labor Committee have written a letter expressing continuing concerns with the project.

“Far too many residents in our part of Dorchester have been excluded from the BRA community process including the project’s IAG (Impact Advisory Group),” they wrote, adding that they hoped for greater concessions regarding traffic, diverse workforces, and increased affordable housing percentages, among others. They said they hoped to postpone Thursday’s vote.

Catherine O’Neill, a spokesperson for the developers, said she is sorry Andelman and Jones felt left out of the IAG process, but developers are unable to appoint members. At more than 120 community meetings, including some in Bowdoin/Geneva, O’Neill said, residents have had significant input into the project, adding that “the reason the project has significantly changed has been the input of the community of Dorchester over the last 36 months.”

The BRA board will take up the projects beginning at 3:30 p.m. in Room 900 in City Hall.