Mitigation funds from Dot Block boosting dreams of non-profits

Members of the development team, the BPDA, and the community gathered at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester last Friday to celebrate the more- than $350,000 in grants given from the Dot Block community fund to 16 organizations at the Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester. Seth Daniel photo

Leaders from 16 non-profit organizations that will split more than $352,000 in funds contributed by the owners of the Dot Block development gathered last week to highlight the grants, which were awarded through a process administered by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA).

The meeting at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dorchester’s Paul R. McLaughlin Center included officials from the BPDA and the key Dot Block developer, Samuels & Associates.

There were 32 applicants for the grants, according to Aaron Hallquist, who supervised the program for the BPDA. He described the distribution process as the first of its kind, with the city planning agency offering a competitive bid process to consider beneficiaries for the developer’s negotiated “community benefits fund.”

Dot Block will eventually include 488 units of rental housing, artist live/workspace, and restaurant and retail space. The first phase — with 245 apartment units— was completed last fall.

“The applicants didn’t dawdle; they jumped right on this,” said Hallquist. “My only regret is it took so long to get the money back out.”

Boston’s Little Saigon Cultural District— based in Fields Corner— received the largest grant – $59,264 – to install a permanent ‘Lantern Alley’ in Fields Corner, to support the Community Partners Program, and to fund the Night Market festival this July.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester won a $35,000 grant to support its arts programming for youth – known as the Arts Triple Play as it focuses on fine art, music, and film. The intent is to provide full access to the arts and bridge any gaps in the curriculum.

Abe Menzin, executive vice president at Samuels & Associates, said the organizations that were chosen are “a key part of keeping the community vibrant and welcoming. We are proud that so many impactful organizations will benefit from our donation and appreciate the BPDA’s continued focus on connecting major business and property owners in the neighborhood with important community partners.”

Former City Councillor Frank Baker, who helped review the large project as it was planned during his time in office, was on hand to congratulate the grant winners.

“This was probably our first and longest project and it put Dorchester on the map,” Baker said. “This project made it okay for other developers and money people to come in and look at Dorchester as a place to spend their money. We also let them know we are a community, and we’ll work with you, but we need benefits packages for our organizations.”

Added current District 3 Councillor John FitzGerald: “We need to make sure in all these developments that Dorchester gets its fair share. People are making big money in the neighborhood, and we will make sure Dorchester gets its share.”

Several of the non-profits – such as the Irish Pastoral Centre (IPC) in Adams Village – shared their intent for the money. Mary Swanton, IPC’s director, noted that it was formed in the 1980s to welcome and help many Irish immigrants coming to Boston. Now, they look to give the same warm welcome to all immigrants that they got when they came years ago. She said their portion of the money will be used to expand the walk-in social work and case management program they operate, noting that the grant was a first for them to get city funding.

“You’re the first people to open the doors of City Hall to us,” she said. “This program will expand our social work program. We are so grateful you have said you want to help our organization and that we’re worthy of support.”

Boston Collegiate Charter School noted funding would be used by their growing sports program.

“This money will help us with the reality of having to have buses to take our teams 15 minutes away to our own home games,” said a representative of the school. “The money is a huge benefit to our student athletes.”

Candace Gartley, the executive director of the All Dorchester Sports and Leadership (ADSL) program said the funds will allow the Fields Corner-based youth sports and wellness group to add staff.

“This gift from Dot Block allowed me to hire three more people,” said Gartley. “It makes a difference because we’re still growing.”

Artists for Humanity director Anna Yu said more than one-third of their participants are from Dorchester. “We’re going to use this money to bring an activation to Dorchester that will actually be able to show our students’ work in Dorchester,” she said. “Their artwork will be presented in the community where our teens are from.”

The 16 awardees included: Youth Enrichment Services (YES), White Snake Projects, Teen Center at St. Peters, Catholic Charities, Speak for the Trees, Somali Development Center, Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, Irish Pastoral Centre, Fresh Food Generation, Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation, Boys & Girls Clubs of Dorchester, Boston Little Saigon, Boston Food Forest Coalition, Artists for Humanity, Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), ADSL, and Boston Collegiate Charter School Foundation.

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