Revised Dot Block wins approval

The BPDA board on Thursday approved changes to the four-acre Dot Block project to add more apartments - with less parking - at a meeting at which BPDA officials acknowledged that protesting Dorchester residents have a point about displacement in the surrounding area, even if they disagreed that Dot Block has anything to do with that.

Under the revised plans 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 plans also call for a 345-space underground garage - compared to the original plans for a 450-space, five-story above-ground garage. The complex will also have about 30,000 square feet of neighborhood-focused 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 - and that half of those will be units for which people living within three-quarters of a mile of the site would 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 BPDA board Chairman Timothy Burke repeatedly hit his gavel on a table, ordered one woman to leave the room altogether and threatened to have officers remove more people.

Menzin acknowledged displacement is happening in Fields Corner, about a mile away, but 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 Glover's Corner area, because roughly 73% of the area's residents are renters and because more than half of those face challenges already making their rent.

Dorchester Not For Sale's "concerns are very valid," she said.

She said part of the answer is development such as Dot Block, which city regulations would require to set aside at least 13% of their units as affordable. But she continued, "we cannot be relying on private development providing all affordable housing required," and 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 - told protesters to "pipe down, will ya?" and said he thinks the new Dot Block project is "a great project."

"I can see the project from my window, he said, thanking the developers for "coming into the neighborhood and building it."

Dot Block filings with the BPDA.

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