More pot in Dot? Marijuana shop eyeing a place in Uphams Corner

A commercial marijuana shop that is being floated for a long-controversial restaurant space in Uphams Corner will be the subject of a special civic meeting on Thursday.

According to the Hancock Street Civic Association, Benjamin Virga has entered into a purchase and sales agreement with the owner of 33 Hancock St., the current location of the Kriola restaurant. In a conversation with the civic association’s vice president, Virga said the property owner promised to deliver an empty premises to him at the completion of the sale.

On May 17, Virga submitted an application for a change of use from a restaurant to a recreational cannabis dispensary for the 33 to 37 Hancock St. property, according to filings with the Inspectional Services Department. Floor plans submitted with the application include a Hancock Street entrance and an exit at the back of the property.

The application was denied for being a forbidden use. A spokeswoman for the department said Virga then filed an appeal with the Zoning Board of Appeal, which kicked off the community process.

No city abutters meetings have yet been scheduled.

Will Cole-French, the civic group’s president, said in a conversation with the Reporter that “this caught us very much by surprise.” He had transportation equity, housing, and a few other topics on his mind for the coming civic season, but marijuana was not one of them. “It’s open season,” he acknowledged, with recreational legalized by a hefty margin last year, “so we really need to be thinking about it and researching it.”

Virga will speak with the civic association officers at an open-door meeting on Thursday, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at 530 Columbia Rd.

There is a certain amount of trepidation around the site itself, as 33 Hancock St. has a history of controversy with nearby residents across several generations of occupants.

“It seems to me that, among the officers and among the people on Payson [Avenue]… there is just kind of a displeasure, feeling that the owner of 33 Hancock doesn’t seem to operate in good faith,” Cole-French said. But as to Virga, “we have a very minimal act of information, he said, “we’re trying to understand what he even has in mind so we don’t rush to an opinion.”

This is the second retail marijuana shop proposed for a Dorchester site of late. Colonel Boothe of Worcester told the Reporter in June that his Holistic Health Group is negotiating with the owner of 1490 Dorchester Ave., which sits in a block of retail stores, to open an adult use cannabis store at the Fields Corner location.

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