If Beale Street could talk: Residents weigh in on a new five-story project

A rendering of the development from the perspective of Dorchester Avenue.

About two dozen people weathered the torrential rain last Thursday evening (Jan. 24) to attend a public meeting at All Saints’ Peabody Hall in Ashmont about a proposed development that would see a five-story, 56-unit condominium structure with no set-aside parking built just down the street at 1970 Dorchester Ave.

The $12 million, 47,512-square foot development, which was filed with the Boston Planning and Development Agency earlier this month by its proponent, 1 Beale Street LLC, would include 32 studio and 24 one-bedroom apartments, as well as 3,265 square feet of ground floor retail space. Seven of the 56 units would be priced affordably, per the city’s minimum requirements.

The property, an empty lot located next to the Ashmont MBTA station, has been vacant since 2005. In recent years it has been used as a staging area during construction of the recently completed Treadmark building across the street. It also houses two transformers owned by Verizon and Eversource, around which the development would be built.

Proponents Tim Long and Michael Ahern explained that as a Transportation Oriented Development (TOD), the project would attract MBTA-using renters and minimize the traffic and parking impact on the surrounding neighborhood.

“There would be a strict ‘no automobiles’ provision in the lease, as well as a discount on T passes for everyone who lives in the building,” explained Long. He pointed out that the development would likely target young professionals, a demographic that increasingly chooses public transport and ride share services over car ownership.

Reaction from audience members was mixed, but largely negative, with several residents of nearby Beale Street doubting the effectiveness of a no-car policy and voicing concerns about rising density in the neighborhood.

“You’re taking the neighborhood out of Ashmont,” complained one person.

Others raised concerns that the high rents of the development could contribute to the displacement in Dorchester’s neighborhoods and called for “deeper affordability.”

The studio apartments in the development designated as “affordable” are predicted to be rented at around $1,200 to $1,400, while rents for the market rate units would approach the “high teens,” according to the proponents.

“The Treadmark and the Carruth have more than half of their units as affordable,” an audience member pointed out. “This building should have same level of affordability.”

Jenn Cartee, executive director of Greater Ashmont Main Streets, said the increase in foot traffic the development would bring represents an exciting opportunity for neighborhood businesses like Tavolo and Ashmont Grill.

“This is a space that has been unused for a long time,” she pointed out. “Overall, for the sake of the health of the businesses we have here, and for businesses coming in, we’re glad to see more tenants who are street focused.”

Cartee added that she had just come from Tavolo, where she noticed only a small handful of patrons. “We can’t expect these businesses to survive without street traffic to patronize them,” she said.

The development remains in the public feedback stage; public comments can be submitted until Feb. 4 by emailing MBTA project manager John Campbell at John.Campbell@Boston.gov or by commenting through the project page on the BPDA website. If approved, construction would begin as early as summer 2019, with an approximate completion date sometime in 2021.