Thursday, November 17, 2011

Moving Slowly, Doing It Right - Dudley Square Parcel 9 & 10 Redevelopment

The Parcel 9/10 Public Review Committee met at Central Boston Elder Services on Tuesday, November 15th, to discuss the redevelopment proposals for the two vacant land parcels at the intersection of Melnea Cass Boulevard and Washington Street.

These parcels will become the gateway to Dudley Square, revitalized by the renovation of the Ferdinand Building and influx of retail spaces, so public interest in the redevelopment is high.

The meeting was presented by BRA member John Dalzell, who gave a very even-handed overview of the four redevelopment proposals, avoiding any sense of favoring one proposal over another.  Instead, he attempted to explain each proposal concept in layman terms, and how each might affect surrounding areas (traffic, pollution, etc.). 

Anyone interested in an overview of the four proposals should read Sandra Larson's article in the Bay State Banner:

Although Mr. Dalzell's presentation did not favor one proposal over another, the types of questions asked by the PRC and audience did reveal potential trends in public opinion.  Questions such as whether an anchor store, such as in the Shawmut Green vision, would attract customers to the Dudley Square area in worthwhile numbers, and whether or not it would encourage those customers to travel into Dudley Square itself for more retail shopping, especially after 5 p.m.. 

A flattering comment about the grocery store El Tropical raised by an audience member was received by a ripple of nodding and sounds of general approval.  It was apparent that the store had it's fans in attendance.  Mention of Wal-Mart, on the other hand, produced uniform head-shaking and at least one, barely audible, but forceful, "No way!"

Questions about the envisioned retail influx indicated a strong public desire for coffee shops, children's clothing and toys, and after 5 p.m. "legal" entertainment (because, the questioner continued, "We've got too much of the other kind already.").  The idea of a movie theater was raised, but due to space requirements, was deemed unlikely by Kristen Keefe, BRA.

On the topic of jobs that the development will bring, John Dalzell acknowledged that the BRA was looking at the quality of jobs brought in, not just quantity. Spaces for biomedical research, for example, brought the kinds of jobs that lead to careers and advancement, not just static retail.

Overall, the apparent public opinion at the meeting seemed to favor a bustling Dudley Square, with opportunities for retail and entertainment that didn't require driving all the way down Washington Ave. to the South End. A comment by an audience member summed up the prevalent feeling, "I want to spend my money in Roxbury."

Additional meetings by the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee are scheduled for November 30th, December 12th, and December 20th.

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