Vince Droser; helped drive development in Boston

By Bryan Marquard
Globe Staff / January 8, 2011

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Development projects that seemed destined to become political and logistical quagmires were irresistible to Vince Droser.

A vice president at the Boston real estate development company Trinity Financial, he took on projects that could be challenging to sell to neighborhoods, like the mixed-use Carruth building next to the Ashmont MBTA station. In his eyes, an oasis was rising from concrete.

“This is a community-driven development that will make people think they should come to Dorchester to get a nice meal and hang out,’’ he told the Globe in 2007, partway into a project that created affordable housing and business space. “Everybody is excited about the big holes in the ground. It’s a little disruptive, but people seem to feel it’s worth the wait.’’

Often, Mr. Droser was one of the only people who had trouble waiting. With his limitless enthusiasm, he always was eager to seek maneuvering room in the tightest deadlock.

“If we were at an impasse,’’ said City Councilor Maureen Feeney, “he would be the person to put something on the table so everyone left thinking, ‘What if we consider this?’ ’’

Mr. Droser, who was chief operating officer of the Boston Housing Authority before moving to Trinity Financial in 1997, died at home of a heart attack Tuesday. He was 55 and lived in the Ashmont/Adams section of Dorchester.

“He was a caring guy,’’ said Mayor Thomas M. Menino. “The first words out of his mouth were, ‘How are we going to help the people?’ He made a difference in people’s lives every day.’’

And he did it when others were ready to walk away at the inevitable frustrations that accompany negotiations for difficult developments.

“When people said, ‘No, that can’t be done,’ Vince sat down and said, ‘Let’s figure out how we can do it,’ ’’ said his wife, Nancy Anderson.

“That’s his legacy. . . . He brought people together at all levels,’’ she said.

Among the projects Mr. Droser worked on was Davenport Commons, a Lower Roxbury complex that combined apartments for Northeastern University students and townhouses for residents who met income requirements.

The development, which cost about $50 million, was dedicated in 2001 and has been praised as a model of town-gown cooperation.

Mr. Droser also lent his expertise to the Mattapan II project that included converting buildings from the former Boston Specialty and Rehabilitation Hospital into mixed income one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, and the Shaw’s supermarket restoration in Dorchester Lower Mills.

“For Vince, it wasn’t, ‘How big is this building,’ or, ‘How much money can we make.’ It was all about improving the quality of life for the people who lived in the building, and for the community in which the building was situated,’’ said Patrick Lee, a principal at Trinity. “That meant there was a certain loftiness in the goals he was pursuing.’’

Lee said Mr. Droser performed his tasks in the often contentious field of real estate development “without it getting ugly or there being a sour taste in either party’s mouth.’’

Whether he was a public official or private developer, a husband, father, or friend, Mr. Droser set an example that resonated, said Stacey Monahan, a friend and neighbor who is executive director of the Massachusetts Democratic Party.

“I feel like I’ve been really blessed to know Vince,’’ she said.

“As a close personal friend and a civic leader, he’s crossed many different paths in my life.’’

Mr. Droser “was an extraordinary man,’’ Monahan said. “He excelled as a dad, and in his marriage it was always Vince and Nancy, Nancy and Vince. They were always together.’’

Each year, the Drosers hosted a fried turkey charity fund-raiser at their home the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The menu included “anything that could be fried: fried macaroni and cheese balls, fried sweet potato chips, fried Twinkies,’’ his wife said.

Because Mr. Droser was an ardent Yankee fan in Red Sox territory, the family would rig a projector in their backyard some summer nights and invite neighbors to watch matchups in the rivalry on a table cloth they tacked to a frame for a rope swing.

“Vince was a lifelong Yankee fan,’’ Lee said.

“A Yankee fan can be wicked obnoxious, maybe almost as obnoxious as us Red Sox fans, but never did this guy thumb his nose when they had their successes, and never did he do anything but celebrate when we had ours.’’

Born in St. Louis, Vincent Albert Droser III was the third of four children in a family whose father worked for AT&T and was transferred to New York state and Chicago before settling in Leonia, N.J.

Mr. Droser graduated from Hobart College in Geneva, N.Y., with a bachelor’s in political science, and received a master’s in public policy from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Through mutual friends he met Anderson, and they married in 1984, but for many years they embellished for their children the story of their meeting.

“We told our kids we met on ‘Jeopardy,’ and they believed it for a long time,’’ she said, laughing at the memory. “He said, ‘Oh, your mother won $20,000!’ ’’

In addition to his wife, Mr. Droser leaves two sons, Richard and William,; two daughters, Veronica and Catherine, all of Dorchester; his mother, Dorothy (Wallace) of Leonia; and three sisters, Carolyn of Holden, Liza Casey of Washington, D.C., and Mary of Riverside, Calif.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. today in All Saints Episcopal Church in Dorchester.

Burial will be in Cedar Grove Cemetery in Dorchester.

“I just wish everyone had had the privilege of spending even one moment of their life with Vince,’’ Feeney said.

“And if not, I hope they will find someone like him because their life will be changed.’’

Menino called Mr. Droser “a special guy’’ and said he would miss “the difference he made in the community at large. Not just in Dorchester, but the city.’’

Mr. Droser, Feeney said, “has certainly left his mark on this city, and this city is certainly more beautiful for his vision.’’

Bryan Marquard can be reached at