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Herb Chambers pitches Morrissey Boulevard dealership to community

Posted by Patrick Rosso  December 7, 2012 02:03 PM

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Big changes could be coming to the dilapidated parcel that sits on Morrissey Boulevard across from Boston College High School and next to the Boston Globe’s offices.

Herb Chambers, a local car tycoon who recently purchased the building and lot at 75 Morrissey, the former home of the Channel 56 studios, has proposed housing his 51st car dealership at the location.

The businessman, a Dorchester native, said the certified pre-owned BMW dealership, slated to be housed in the structure on the 97,739-square-foot property, would be a great addition to the community.

“I think the end result will be a heck of a lot better looking,” Chambers told a group of residents at a Boston Redevelopment Authority community meeting Thursday night. “I think it’s a good thing for Dorchester.”

Close to 30 residents gathered at the Cristo Rey High School in Savin Hill Thursday night to hear Chambers’ pitch.

Chambers and his representatives said minor work would have to be done to the building that currently sits on the lot, aside from some cosmetic upgrades, including the installation of LED lights and the sprucing up of the parking lot.

“It’s a pretty simple conversion for us because we’re really not building anything,” Chambers said.

The building would be renovated and new signs would be added to the front of the building and the existing tower. The front of the building would also be replaced by a glass for a car showroom. Existing antennas would be taken down and the fence that surrounds the property repainted and repaired.

The work was estimated to take six to eight months.

In addition to selling certified pre-owned vehicles, the property would also have a service department, but no auto-body work or painting would take place at the Dorchester location, Chambers said. The dealership would accommodate about 150 vehicles.

He estimated that the renovations would create upwards of 80 temporary construction jobs generate 40 permanent full-time positions.

Dorchester City Councilor Frank Baker asked who the construction jobs would go to. Chambers responded he has spoken with state Representative Martin Walsh, a union supporter, and an agreement had been reached to hire local and union, although Chambers didn’t go into details about the agreement.

“There’s an understanding that the unions build a quality product at a quality price,” said Chambers. “We had a meeting with Representative Walsh and came up with an agreement.”

Many who attended Thursday’s meeting said the project would be a nice change for the neighborhood and the parcel that has sat unused since 2007, but concerns were raised about how the project plays into the Columbia Point Master Plan, completed in 2011.

“We’re starting the momentum on the wrong track,” said Don Walsh, an area resident and past chair of the Columbia Point Master Plan Committee. “The whole idea of the Master Plan was to look at the area as a whole and go with the Master Plan.”

The plan, which encompasses an area of close to 400 acres, was developed to guide and stimulate future construction in the area, push for a more densely populated, transit-oriented neighborhood, and encourage mixed-use structures.

Some at Thursday’s meeting said that Chambers’ plan didn’t follow the Master Plan and could hinder future development in the area.

Paul Losordo, corporate counsel for Chambers, said the dealership would not stand in the way of other development in the area.

“When the day comes and the Master Plan is ready for implementation we won’t stand in your way,” Losordo said. “We’re just a place holder.”

Overall, residents were supportive of the project, with many saying the property has been nothing but trouble since WHDH purchased Channel 56 and closed the site.

The BRA board will take up the matter next; a date has not been set. The public will have a chance to comment on the project until Dec. 17.

Comments can be submitted by e-mail, by fax (617) 742-7783, or by conventional mail:

ATTN: lance Campbell, Boston Redevelopment Authority
One City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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