Condo project proposed for Rent-All site in Lower Mills

An rendering of the proposal for the Rent-All of Boston property in Lower Mills.
Artwork courtesy Spalding & Tougias

A Boston-based developer is looking to build his first project in Dorchester at the Rent-All of Boston location on Adams Street in Lower Mills, a 33-unit development on two lots that will capitalize on the existing grade changes to provide 29 underground parking spots.

The proposal, by Bill Caulder of 6M Development, who has some building experience in East Boston and the North End, hasn’t had much of a community airing yet, just an initial online meeting with the Lower Mills Civic Association executive board, with a second demolition delay hearing in process with Boston’s Landmarks Commission involving a small home on one of the lots.

The project was on the agenda for Tuesday’s civic association meeting and will eventually go through the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s (BPDA) Article 80 Small Project Review process.

“The owners of Rent-All were good at keeping the company there in operation and serving Dorchester and beyond for so many years,” said Caulder. “Now, they feel the time is right to move to sell it. To develop the housing there will reduce trips from a traffic perspective and will also reduce the noise of the uses there that emanate now from Rent-All.”

He added, “This is really just an extension of the success of Dennis Keohane’s development next door. The density fits in context with the adjacent buildings as opposed to being built in a dense single-family section of Dorchester.”

Caulder said he was drawn to the area’s proximity to public transit and the ability to use the existing grade change for development purposes while noting that Lower Mills is a great neighborhood to pursue development.

“We’re taking advantage of the existing grades to provide below grade parking with 29 spaces,” said Caulder. “In Lower Mills you have the renaissance of eateries and shops and the proximity to basic staples like Star Market, CVS, and the other businesses. New buyers are looking for that. It checks all of those boxes, plus it’s only a short walk from two MBTA stations.”

The plan includes 33 units of condo housing, with 4 of them in the affordable category, and the 29 spaces in a four-story section with a fifth story stepped back and not visible from the street.

Mike Skillin, moderator of the Dorchester Lower Mills Civic Association, did not immediately answer a request on the project. The group was expected to discuss it this week.

During last week’s online meeting, Project Architect Cheryl Tougias, of Spalding & Tougias, said the small home planners hope to demolish dates from about 1930, and is structurally unsound on the inside and at the foundation.

“We really felt pretty much all of the exterior cladding and windows and doors have been replaced and the interior, any significant element has been replaced,” she said. “So, what we’re left with are some things that are not compliant such as the stairs, and you have the fireplace…The replacements were inconsistent with other structures in the district, both the interior and exterior.”

A similar, sister building on the site next door, where the Keohane project has been built, was demolished prior to that construction project.
Caulder said some of the initial comments are that the building is too big, but he noted it is not much bigger than the new project next door or the other buildings in the vicinity and is on a double lot.

“Saying it’s too big is a bit arbitrary,” he said. “There is only a single-story building there now, so everyone’s first reaction is it’s too big, but this is a part of the city of Boston with multimodal transportation and it’s also amenity rich. The Sheet Metal workers union are all in favor of this development, and we feel our immediate abutting neighbors are on board as well.”

Development plan for Metamorphosis

A second development project in Lower Mills has also emerged this month. It’s described as a 24-unit development on the site of the current Metamorphosis store (1153 Washington St.). There are few details available regarding the project, but RODE Architects of Dorchester is working on the project, which was to be taken up at the Tuesday (Jan. 18) meeting of the Lower Mills Civic Association.

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