Civic Groups Set on Sovereignty over Sites along Boulevards

Cedar Grove residents voted Tuesday to limit the options of an Adams Corner lot to three suitors with deep community ties, leaving open the possibility of converting the building into parking spaces.

Suitors for the space, vacated by Sovereign Bank, pressed their cases at the monthly Cedar Grove Civic Association meeting, part of an ongoing saga that has pitted the bank against area civic groups, and left one developer threatening litigation.

Two Sovereign sites, one at the corner of Adams Street and Gallivan Boulevard and the other at the corner of Freeport St. and Morrissey Blvd., were left empty when Sovereign consolidated their operations into a larger facility in Neponset Circle. The remaining lots have attracted broad interest from several bidders, but neighborhoods groups have muscled into the negotiations, determined to exercise control over what types of businesses fill them.

Meanwhile, Thomas Flynn, the developer who was in the final stages of a purchase-and-sale agreement with the bank for the Freeport St. site, has been threatening Sovereign with a lawsuit, according to John O'Toole, president of Cedar Grove Civic.

The Cedar Grove group has teamed with the Pope's Hill Neighborhood Association to pressure Sovereign to resolve the sites' destinies in tandem, with the two groups refusing to negotiate independently.

The three interested parties for the Adams Corner property include the Members Plus Credit Union, Quincy-based Comtronics wireless communications company, and potential restaurateurs who envision a bistro.

Members Plus Credit Union claims deep ties in the neighborhood, with an already-extant presence in the village. Comtronics, which proposes a retail showroom, is represented by former Dorchester City Councillor James Byrne. And the bistro investors, seeking a 70-person capacity restaurant with a license for beer, wine, and cordials, are led by Michael and Kristin Ahern, residents of nearby Westmoreland St. and members of a well-connected local family.

On Tuesday, a representative of the Ashmont-Adams Civic Association read a letter in support of the bistro.

John Stenson, owner of the Eire Pub two storefronts down, lobbied to turn the 11,400-square-foot parcel into a parking lot, which would ease the cramped parking situation in Adams Corner. City officials have said they would be reluctant to pursue that route.

And another would-be buyer, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local #2222, a telecommunications union, has expressed interest but did not attend. O'Toole said the local is investigating the purchase of a Lower Mills property, at the corner of Washington and River streets.

The battle over the sites' disposition has consumed community and government meetings for over a year, with all sides growing exasperated over the inability to reach a universally satisfactory settlement.

O'Toole said the two groups were considering a full-on boycott of Sovereign's Neponset branch if the bank did not heed community sentiment.

Sovereign officials did not attend the meeting. Three Sovereign officials were unavailable for comment and did not immediately return phone calls on Wednesday.

While neighbors have wielded much of the community's clout in the Sovereign dealings, politicians signaled their growing unrest with the situation.

State Representative Martin Walsh said, "I just don't think Sovereign can be trusted at this point."

City Councillor Maureen Feeney said, "We need to put Sovereign on notice that they need to let us know, both civic associations, what their agenda is."

Members Plus Treasurer William Puddister, who is paid by the Reporter for part-time financial management services, acknowledged after the meeting that the Freeport St. Sovereign site would also appeal to the Credit Union, but said the institution's long-standing presence in Adams Corner makes that site preferable. Customers, he said, plan their visits to his business around visit to others, and vice versa.