Residents outline their vision for Mattapan Square development

Residents discussed potential uses for a proposed new building in Mattapan Square at a meeting on Tuesday evening at the Mattapan BPL branch. Bill Forry photo

Residents want to see healthy, smoke-free apartments, award-winning design elements and — critically— a family-friendly, fine dining restaurant included in a mixed-use development now on the drawing board for Mattapan Square. A development team led by Nuestra Comunidad Development Corporation (CDC) convened a workshop to solicit ideas from neighbors and other stakeholders in and around Mattapan on Tuesday evening at the Boston Public Library branch on Blue Hill Avenue. About 75 people— including architects and other employees associated with the development team— turned out to swap ideas about what will be the largest new residential development to rise in the heart of Mattapan Square in decades.

The MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board gave official approval for the ground lease at Mattapan Station to the partnership of Nuestra CDC and the Preservation of Affordable Housing Inc. (POAH) at their monthly meeting in July. The team was awarded rights to develop the parking lot parcels along River Street after responding to a request for proposals earlier this year. The lease deal will yield an estimated $4.8 million in payments to the T over the next 20 years. Their winning proposal will include the construction of a five-story building to house some 135 units of housing with an estimated 10,000 square feet of commercial space at the ground level.

Tuesday night’s meeting was the second in what Nuestra CDC president David Price told the crowd will be a series of meetings to scope out design and use elements for the building and its surrounding green space, which will offer a unique chance to link the new development to the Neponset Greenway trail. A new section of the trail connecting Mattapan Square to Central Avenue in Milton is nearing completion this summer. Price told attendees that the next meeting will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 13 at the Mattapan library. He expects to convene with the community every other month going forward until a mandatory Boston Redevelopment Authority review begins, likely next year.

On a busy summer evening that included a National Night Out event at Almont Park, a number of longtime community activists joined in the conversation Tuesday. The meeting began with an overview of the process from David Saladik of Mass Design, a non-profit architectural group that has been hired to lead the planning for Nuestra-POAH. Saladik said his team hopes to engage the community in talking about “what a building can do for the community its built in.”

Attendees were asked to beak up into three separate focus groups for most of the meeting. One cluster of about 20 people zeroed in on how to create a “chill spot” for the development.

“I’m appalled that I have to go out of my own community when I want to take my family to a nice sit-down restaurant,” said Wes Williams, who is active with both Nuestra and Mattapan United, an umbrella group of civic activists in the neighborhood. “We deserve a sit-down restaurant and we have to have input into who the operators will be.”

Lincoln Larmond, co-chair of Mattapan United, stressed that fast-food options are not going to be acceptable to the community.

“We want a restaurant where you can sit down with your family and also have a beer and wine option,” said Larmond. “There’s also a big art movement right now in Mattapan and that should be part of the plan.”

Alex Gordon, 20, is a the bike coordinator for the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition. He wants to see a mix of amenities that will include a restaurant offering healthy food options to the neighborhood, along with place for young people to feel comfortable.

“There’s really no place to go for young people in the neighborhood,” said Gordon. “I see a lot of young people hanging out in Burger King.”

Gordon suggested a rooftop garden might be a feature of the new building.

Larmond said that he hopes that the design team can reach out to solicit ideas from more young people as the conversation proceeds.

In its current, pre-design form, the proposed development would include 70 residential parking spaces. The lease agreement with the T mandates that the Nuestra-POAH plans keep 50 parking spaces intact for commuters using the adjacent MBTA station.

According to a slide shown at Tuesday’s meeting, a minimum of 50 percent of the 135 units of housing in the building would be marketed as affordable at 60 percent of Area Media Income (AMI).

Larmond emphasized that whatever the mix of housing in the final product, it must been priced and marketed with a mind towards serving the people who live in Mattapan now.

“We are very concerned that this building not become a catalyst for gentrification in Mattapan,” said Larmond.