Dot Block, South Bay Town Center approved by BRA Board

The Dot Block and the South Bay Town Center projects each received the approval of the Boston Redevelopment Authority Board at its monthly meeting last night. The projects account for $350 million invested in over 1.4 million square feet of Dorchester development.

Of the nine projects approved during the six-hour board meeting, the two Dorchester projects constituted the bulk of investment and include over 800 of the more than 1,100 new housing units given the green light.

City Councillors Frank Baker and Annissa Essaibi George spoke in favor of both projects. Baker has been a staunch advocate for the developments, which he’s said are well-positioned to rejuvenate the surrounding neighborhoods.

“I think it’s not only going to be great for Dorchester, but great for the City of Boston,” he said.
DOT Block: A new rendering depicts the most recent iteration of the DOT Block development proposal for parcels along Dorchester Avenue near Glover’s Corner. Image courtesy RODE ArchitectsDOT Block: A new rendering depicts the most recent iteration of the DOT Block development proposal for parcels along Dorchester Avenue near Glover’s Corner. Image courtesy RODE Architects
Dot Block, located near the Savin Hill T station and within the scope of a BRA study planned for a swath of Dorchester Avenue and Freeport street, will provide 362 residential units and with 37,000 square feet of new retail space, potentially including a grocery store. Forty-seven apartments will be designated as affordable housing.

“Now it’s an under-utilized industrial site,” Baker said, “an area where a lot of activity happens that isn’t necessarily positive activity.”

The centerpiece of the five-building Glover’s Corner development is its broad pedestrian walkway, which has remained throughout multiple design iterations and is open to the neighborhood.

“We want people to come here. We want people to cut through here,” said Eric Robinson with RODE Architects. “We want to activate this space, not only with residents. And that was important to us in the community and also to the community at large.”

Catherine O’Neill, who represents the developers, said the project has evolved over the course of 120 community meetings. Dot Block is expected to cost $150 million and include 388,400 square feet of construction on just under 4 acres.

“We are keenly aware that the only reason that we are here tonight presenting to you is because of the residents of Dorchester, their input, their collaboration, and their support,” O’Neill said.

The Dot Block team now needs to secure a number of variances, such as change-of-use on a few of the lots, from the Zoning Board of Appeals. O’Neill said they have a ZBA hearing date scheduled for June 21, and expect to have shovel in the ground by spring 2017.

A groundbreaking is much closer for the South Bay Town Center project, a 1 million square foot development by the owners of the adjacent South Bay Mall that will include 475 units of housing (including 62 affordable units), a 130-room hotel, 125,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, an AMC cinema, and parking for about 1,100 vehicles.

A rendering of what the South Bay Town Center project might look like upon completion.A rendering of what the South Bay Town Center project might look like upon completion.The project received final board approval Thursday night, after full-throated support and some dissent before the BRA. South Bay Town Center is expected to cost $200 million and provide 599 construction jobs.

“EDENS is extremely excited,” said Brad Dumont, senior vice president of development, “because it has been a very involved process with the community.”

Dumont said they anticipate breaking ground in June, with careful demolition and abatement on some of the existing sites. Though not a phased construction, the South Bay project will be completed throughout 2017 and 2018.

Two buildings with one floor of retail and restaurant space -- one under five stories of structure parking, another housing the 12-screen cinema -- will hopefully be opened in late 2017, Dumont said. The theater would include AMC IMAX and AMC Prime theaters, “with all the bells and whistles,” he said.

AMC and Wahlburgers are the only two currently confirmed retail partners, though Dumont said EDENS is in talks with dozens of retailers. The town center is set to be a featured project at a Las Vegas convention later this year, Dumont said, which will likely drum up additional interest.

Those who offered testimony at the BRA hearing in support of the project expressed enthusiasm for new amenities that would not require a long trip downtown to access. Some abutters said they remained concerned about traffic pressures and community fit.

EDENS presented a long-term mitigation plan in response to a letter from the project’s Impact Advisory Group last month.

The two Dorchester developments joined seven others -- in Brighton, the Fenway, Mission Hill, South Boston, and West Roxbury -- to win approval at the meeting Thursday night. According to a BRA statement, they represent a combined investment of $478.2 million and are expected to create 1,170 construction jobs.