Bookshop will open at Dot Crossing site

The new Dot Crossing building at 1463 Dorchester Ave. features a retail space whose tenant was chosen by community members and crowdfunding investors. Seth Daniel photo

Fields Corner residents, asked to decide between two finalists for the better use of a ground-level retail space in the new Dot Crossing apartment building now under construction next to the MBTA station, voted to support a literary space that leans heavily on programming, clubs, and other special events – primarily after 6 p.m. and on the weekends.

The 1,300-square-foot space will be leased to The Book Shop, a new-concept bookstore that is the brainchild of Bing Broderick, former executive director of the Haley House, and Porsha Olayiwola, the current Poet Laureate for the City of Boston.

“The Book Shop team is thrilled with this opportunity,” Olayiwola and Broderick said in a statement this week. “As residents of Dorchester, we look forward to opening our doors and providing a space for hospitality, creativity, collaboration, and possibility. We look forward to working with the Fields Corner business community and the broader Dorchester community to build a thriving space for the future.”

The idea for The Book Shop and the way in which it was chosen by residents are groundbreaking in Fields Corner and the development world, said members of the TLee Development team that is building the five-story structure housing 29 units of affordable housing at 1463 Dorchester Ave. Early on, the first-floor retail space in the heart of the neighborhood presented an interesting opportunity.

“We really wanted the ability to design a space that’s innovative and unique to the block,” said Dariela Villon Maga of TLee Development. “We wanted someone that would extend the hours of Fields Corner. After 5 or 6 p.m., we’ve all observed there aren’t many places beyond restaurants and the Blarney Stone to spend time in Fields Corner and enjoy the neighborhood. That was an important criterion.”

The project would require fundraising, philanthropy, and community support to allow the business to thrive. But most in the community already knew that because the idea of siting The Book Shop there was not only vetted by the community, but also chosen by the community in a very public process that included residents and crowdfunding investors.

Miriam Gee, of Co-Everything and a partner with TLee, organized the city’s first crowdfunding investment opportunity last spring for the Dot Crossing building, which attracted 81 community investors who provided $144,000 to the cause.

“We have these 80-plus investors and told them at the outset they would be part of any decisions on the building,” said Gee. “One we anticipated them making was the retail decision…This is totally new and no one has ever done this before as far as we know. We had to figure out the parameters and the process. We’re kind of creating the model we’re working on together.”

For the investors, a Project Oversight Committee was formed, and 3 of the 81 were chosen in an election to sit on the committee – including Marilyn Forman, Lorenzo Whitter, and Shaquille Anderson.

Somala Diby, of TLee Development, ran the public and investor processes, which included a public competition in September between The Book Shop and a proposal from Tam Le of Reign Drink Lab in Fields Corner. She noted that in making their decision, residents and investors were as interested in financial sustainability and viability as they were in the concept itself.

“There are a lot of people who feel proud for participating in the decision on The Book Shop,” said Diby. “It’s not just the landlord and tenant here. Through this process, we’ve built some larger sense of responsibility for people to ensure the business is successful. A lot of folks who participated have their eyes on it and are now willing to invest in the success of The Book Shop.”

Villon-Maga noted they were excited to bring a retail concept to the new building that already has public support before it opens and promises to activate Dorchester Avenue in off-peak hours.

“Porsha and Bing are experienced and have so many connections in the city they will succeed,” she said. “When you add us on top, it’s the cherry. I’m excited to be a part of bringing this to Fields Corner.”

The Dot Crossing Apartments, which are one-bedroom and studio units, are expected to be occupied by June 2023. The Book Shop retail space is expected to be ready the following September.

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