The BPDA board last Thursday approved changes to the 4-acre Dot Block project plan to add more apartments - with less parking – during a meeting at which BPDA officials acknowledged that protesting residents have a point about displacement in the surrounding area. However, they contended that the introduction of Dot Block into the neighborhood has nothing to do with that issue.
Under the revised plan for the roughly $200-million project, Dot Block, in the area bounded by Dorchester Avenue and Hancock, Pleasant, and Greenmount streets, developers Samuels and Associates and Wintergold, LLC, said they would build 488 housing units in four buildings— up from the 362 originally approved for the site. The revised plan also calls for a 345-space underground garage – compared to the original proposal for a 450-space, 5-story above-ground garage. The complex will also have about 30,000 square feet of retail space, and more than an acre of public space.
The project does not directly displace any residents because it would be built on a site now occupied by little used warehouses, Samuels Vice President Abe Menzin said. He and BPDA staffers said some 66 units will be rented as affordable, of which half will be units for which people living within three-quarters of a mile will get priority.
But protesters from Dorchester Not For Sale, who packed the BPDA board room, loudly disagreed that the project would not lead to displacement in the surrounding blocks - to the point that board chairman Timothy Burke repeatedly hit his gavel on a table, ordered one woman to leave the room altogether, and threatened to have more people removed.
Menzin acknowledged displacement is happening in Fields Corner, about a mile away, but he said his team tried to deal with that by boosting the total number of units so as to increase the number of affordable units that would be economically feasible.
Viktorija Abolina, the BPDA’s assistant deputy director for neighborhood planning, said the agency is working on figuring out how to increase affordable housing in roughly 100 acres of the Glovers Corner area, because roughly 73 percent of the area’s residents are renters and more than half already face challenges in paying their rents.
She added that Dorchester Not For Sale’s “concerns are very valid” while suggesting that part of the answer is development such as Dot Block, which city regulations would require to set aside at least 13 percent of their units as affordable. But, she continued, “We cannot be relying on private development providing all the affordable housing required.” She noted that planners are looking at other possibilities involving existing city programs and funds to create “more deeply affordable” housing in the area.
Board member Michael Monahan, who is also Business Manager of Local 103 of the IBEW, asked protesters to “pipe down, will ya?” He said Dot Block project is “a great project. I can see the project from my window.” He thanked the developers for “coming into the neighborhood and building it.”
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