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City to put 3 acres of land in Dudley Square out to bid for mixed-use development

Map of the parcels

The Department of Neighborhood Development hopes to bolster Dudley Square by finding a developer to transform a vacant lot and parking spaces in Dudley Square into a new mixed-use complex.

Next month, the department will formally issue a request for proposals for a 99-year lease on the land next to and between the B-2 police station, the Roxbury courthouse and the BPL branch, hoping to attract developers who would want to put up buildings up to 12 stories tall with the potential of "a significant contribution of city resources" in exchange for meeting job and affordability requirements far stricter than those set for most new projects in the city.

The city also plans to issue separate RFPs for three much smaller parcels in Dudley Square.

Under the 135 Dudley St. RFP, part of the city's overall Plan: Dudley Square, developers only have to bid on a 1.6-acre parcel along Dudley Street - but are being encouraged to include the current B-2 parking lot and additional land next to it - with the proviso that any plans would have to include dedicated parking for the police.

The bid proposal sets a series of other guidelines and restrictions:

The developer must show how the first-floor commercial space will be used to bolster local businesses and provide employment to local residents.

Proposed apartments must have at least two-thirds of the units set aside as affordable, and with half of those specifically targeted to low-income residents (the city normally requires developers to set aside 13% of units as "affordable"); proposed condos must have at least two-thirds of units sold to people making no more than roughly 80% of the area median income.

The winning developer will also have to submt a plan showing how it would keep its project from leading to gentrification and resident displacement in the surrounding area.

Also, "Neighborhood amenities such as museums, art galleries, bookstores, entertainment venues, performance spaces, artist live/work spaces and public open spaces of varying sizes are encouraged" - especially ones that provide evening programs that would encourage "residents to stay local to the Dudley Square area for entertainment, shopping and dining to support local businesses."

And, "Proposals that include a large green park space will be viewed more favorably than other proposals."

Although the RFP will set a general height limit of 6 to 12 stories, "proposers may propose projects of additional heights if the proposed project clearly demonstrates meeting the Development Objectives [outlined above]."

In return for all this, however, "it is expected that there may be a significant contribution of city resources to achieve these goals."

DND hopes to have its formal RFP ready for developers on July 16, with bids due by Oct. 30.

135 Dudley St. RFP alert (3.1M PDF).

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Comments

In addition to the fact that these parcels are currently a vacant eye sore in the heart of Dudley, allowing for dense residential development on them will likely drive revenue for the local businesses and spur more commercial growth, which the Globe recently pointed out is an issue in Dudley.

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IMO it doesn't make a lot of sense to put high concentrations of affordable units in neighborhoods that are already struggling. If you want to build a building with 2/3rds affordable units (For which there is already an extremely limited supply of funding) put it in Back Bay, the Fenway, or JP Pondside. What this neighborhood needs is more people with disposable income to spend at the local businesses, not more concentrated poverty.

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It should go without saying of course that no private developer is going to be able to do 66% affordability in any neighborhood, but let alone one where market rate units don't exactly fetch top dollar, so I'm assuming any project that does happen here is going to be receiving some generous subsidies.

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Is probably lower. Because the city owns it they can make higher requirements on the developer and I bet they help make things easier with good land prices.

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Why the bias against building dense affordable housing in Dudley Square? High-rise buildings are going up in the Back Bay and Fenway so why not Dudley Sq. which is at least not as crazy expensive to live in compared to other neighborhoods. I'd love to live in Manhattan, but I can't afford to... so
why would I buy an affordable unit there... it's not logical. Why not give working class folks a shot at living in Boston even if it's not what YOU would consider a desirable neighborhood.

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Why the bias against building dense affordable housing in Dudley Square?

I'm not against the density at all (very much for it in fact). But since the cost to build a unit on city land is pretty much the same regardless of neighborhood, I think it would provide more bang for our government buck if we were to build those units in places with the highest demand first (and where housing is already very unaffordable), as opposed to neighborhoods where much of the housing is already still somewhat affordable to people in the 80-120% AMI income bracket.

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Not poverty.

Perhaps you should check the definitions of these classes of units to get a better idea of what is on offer here.

1/3 market, 1/3 middle income and 1/3 lower income is not "concentrated poverty".

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"Poverty" may be the wrong word, but it is still concentrating people in the lower end of the income spectrum. Perhaps more importantly, using those subsidies dollars in Dudley means that they will not be available to use in places where housing is already completely inaccessible to folks making 80-120% of AMI.

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don't they have more money to spend at local businesses instead?

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The city buys land at uphams corner to “stem the tide” of exactly what they are trying to brew in Dudley .

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If it's their property then they can structure the sale in a way that will hopefully protect the area in a way that they could not if it were not under their control.

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The winning developer will also have to submit a plan showing how it would keep its project from leading to gentrification and resident displacement in the surrounding area.

Sounds like a like of provisos in there that might make it complicated for a developer to build the thing and still make a buck. Hope it works.

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But there are developers and non-profits in Boston that have built projects like this before and some that are even familiar with Dudley Square.

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Yes, but only with large amounts of public money. Money that, if it goes here, cannot go towards building affordable housing in some more expensive part of the city.

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Once they add "Neighborhood amenities such as museums, art galleries, bookstores, entertainment venues, performance spaces, artist live/work spaces and public open spaces of varying sizes" I'm not sure how they are going to keep people from wanting to move to a more vibrant neighborhood. Neighborhoods with great amenities tend to "gentrify"

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It seems like the goal of this project is to improve the general quality of life and to provide affordable housing opportunities, which are both laudable goals. But one of the side effects of improving quality of life in a neighborhood tends to be gentrification simply because a nicer place to live attracts people who can afford to spend more on housing. The types of businesses the RFP envisions also seem more consistent with a gentrifying/gentrified neighborhood as well; folks who cannot afford market-rate housing typically don't have the disposable income available to spend at art galleries, museums, performance spaces -- at least, not enough for the businesses to cover expenses.

The City, non-profits, and/or other government entities are going to have to kick in some coin (including a $1/year lease) to make this project work (as Adam mentions in his story) since it just doesn't work financially as one-third affordable/one-third low-income at Boston's construction costs. It seems like it would be even more challenging as a larger project (on the additional parcels) if the developer has to provide parking for the Area B-2 police station.

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Gotta agree - the goals are laudable and I'm glad they're at least trying, but this seems like a super tricky balance to strike. Not sure that particular selection of businesses/spaces, all of which are hallmarks of a gentrifying neighborhood, is the right idea. Would love to see things that are designed to help locals build businesses and community - credit unions, commercial kitchens for independent bakers/caterers, makerspaces with discounted membership, coworking spaces, a local, accessible day care/head start, an elderly services nonprofit.... all seem more useful than an 'art gallery.'

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These are great suggestions for business types to try to place there and I would strongly suggest sharing them with Sheila Dillon at the Office of Neighborhood Development and probably also your local city councilor. I don't know how much of a choice they're ultimately going to get about what sort of pop-ups show up there, and financial resources are definitely going to be a concern (the city likes art galleries because they cost very little to set up), but I think they're definitely worth mentioning.

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There's a massive lot next to the court house too. It's easy to imagine
* first floor retail, all around,
* a ramp, leading down or up, for parking for the police, the court use, retail, office, and residential use. I don't know how many spaces are needed, and given ramps and columns, it would likely require two floors
* with police and courthouse right there, a floor for legal offices, non-profit legal services, etc. would seem like an obvious winner
* and yes, housing please.

Me, I'd prefer less parking. You are at Dudley Square, after all.

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So that lot has to stay.

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Ugh. Why don't they just sell the land with those covenants.

Oh right, because the BPDA doesn't want to give up being a landlord.

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From the perspective of a developer and a lender, a 99 year lease is the same as owning. They present value of revenue means that everything out past 30 or 40 years is irrelevant -- so the people who they sell the ~70 year lease too are just as indifferent.

But 100 years from now the people of Boston get to again decide what happens with the land.

99 year leases are a belief that future Bostonians will know what's best for them, and that we should make sure that these future residents have some say over their built environment.

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None of this addresses the fact that there are already retail vacancies everywhere in Dudley and some of the more recent openings were not able to make it (Dudley Dough-permanently closed, Tasty Burger--also closed). Proposing additional retail space does nothing if the first floors of all of these brand new buildings will sit vacant.

I would love to see a more vibrant Dudley than the state it is currently in. I live just up the street, and pass through it almost daily...but that's all I do. I pass by, because it's not a "walk around and enjoy the neighborhood amenities" kind of place. It's really challenging to bring life to a neighborhood from the top-down with these sweeping proposals. I hope they can be successful. Dudley is such a wasted opportunity for the city and for nearby residents of all income levels.

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A substantial and dependable customer base with disposable income within walking distance of the square would definitely help.

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Might be the make-or-break re whether this project ultimately benefits the neighborhood. Hopefully, the immediate stakeholders will be out in force for lots of community meetings re this proposal.

There is a lot of pro-development sentiment in Roxbury *IF* it's development that brings up the neighbors along with it. (That Dudley growth can be energized from the south out of Roxbury, instead of just from the north out of the South End and downtown, seems to never cross the minds of some people.)

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