BRA to launch planning effort along Freeport Street corridor

An aerial view of the Glover's Corner section of Dorchester. Google maps

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) will undertake a planning initiative aimed at the stretch of Freeport Street, including Glover’s Corner, the busy crossroads of Dot Ave., Hancock, and Freeport streets.

(Editor's Note: The final boundaries of the study area have not been set. A spokesman for the BRA says, "The scope and timeline for the Glover’s Corner initiative are being finalized, but the BRA will work closely with community members to explore opportunities for mixed-use development around Freeport Street and Dorchester Avenue near the Savin Hill Red Line station.")

Mayor Martin Walsh announced the upcoming project, part of a long list of plans for the coming year, in his State of the City address on Tuesday night. He added that the BRA will also begin a more comprehensive planning process in Dudley Square that will build on an existing Roxbury Strategic Master Plan.

The Glover’s Corner and Dudley Square projects will be modeled on two BRA-led planning efforts already underway: One is focused on spurring development along Washington Street in Jamaica Plain and the other is centered on the stretch of Dorchester Avenue in South Boston between the Andrew and Broadway MBTA stations.

“We need to shape growth as a community, not let it shape us,” Walsh said in his speech. “That's what residents are doing along the Red Line in South Boston, and the Orange Line in Jamaica Plain. They're helping us plan vibrant, walkable streets, with affordable homes, diverse businesses, and great open space.”

In a city already facing intense pressure for land use and a scarcity of housing, the heavily industrial Glover’s Corner-Freeport Street section presents itself as an enticing prospect for city planners.

It includes large parcels of land between Dorchester Avenue, the MBTA’s Red Line tracks,and the Southeast Expressway that are now occupied for a variety of purposes: The city’s largest depot for its yellow school buses is situated just off Dorchester Avenue at Freeport Street; several automotive businesses line the corridor along with the city-owned Campbell Resource Center, an aging facility used by the Boston Public Schools.

The planning zone will not include the western side of Dorchester Avenue, where a large-scale redevelopment project dubbed DOTBlock is currently being designed on a large plot of land between Hancock Street and the avenue. A new iteration of the DOTBlock project– which will include hundreds of units of housing — is expected to be made public this week.

The intent of the Glover's Corner planning initiative, BRA officials say, is to help guide future development in the neighborhood. "We're eager to work with the community around Glover's Corner to undertake the type of planning that is currently underway in other parts of the city,” said BRA director Brian Golden in a statement to the Reporter. “This area is increasingly experiencing pressures to redevelop, and our challenge, as Mayor Walsh highlighted in his State of the City address, is to shape growth as a community, not let it shape us.

"Our refreshed approach to planning, which focuses on more robust engagement with residents to solicit ideas for the future, has been well-received in South Boston and Jamaica Plain, and we expect the process to be just as constructive in the new areas of focus. While the timing and details are still being firmed up, we hope to work expeditiously in Glover's Corner, as we have in our other strategic planning areas," said Golden.

Frank Baker, the city councillor from District 3, first asked for a review of the Glover’s Corner-Freeport area when he was running for election in 2011. He is now working with residents and businesses already engaged in the BRA’s efforts along Dorchester Avenue in South Boston. “My sense is that’s going to happen [in Dorchester], and the communities will be listened to,” said Baker.

State Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, in reacting to the planning news, said, “I think it’s wonderful. That is a piece on Dorchester Avenue that needs a lot of support. It’s great, especially in terms of developments that are coming forward in the area.”

The neighborhood’s needs are diverse, said Forry, and include long-time residents who want to stay in their homes. From a small-business perspective, she said, the study will offer a chance to encourage growth, noting that many of the privately owned lots in the area were poised for a detailed look at how best to utilize them.

“It isn’t going to happen unless you have landowners that are willing to be on board,” Baker said.

Robert Susi, who owns the large school bus yard near the top of Freeport Street along with other properties nearby, told the Reporter that he hadn’t heard about any potential planning study involving his property, adding that he doubted the study area would include the lot.

However, when it comes to discussions of property use, Susi said “We’re open. I’m always open-minded about that.”

The announcement is “certainly timely,” said state Rep. Dan Hunt, who represents the Freeport Street neighborhood. “The community is going to say what they want in that area. It’s exciting that these large swaths of industrial land will be open for development… with the potential to greater connect Savin Hill and Fields Corner."

Senator Linda Dorcena Forry is married to Reporter editor Bill Forry, who contributed reporting about the BRA's role in this story. Jennifer Smith interviewed Sen. Forry and other elected officials quoted in this article.


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