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Ballou Avenue lots eyed for community garden and tot lot

Posted by Patrick Rosso  October 3, 2013 03:39 PM

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A series of vacant lots along Ballou Avenue in Dorchester, more known for the trash they collect than the benefits they bring to the community, could soon provide a number of new uses.

At a meeting of the Codman Square Neighborhood Council Wednesday night Jay Lee, assistant director of design, construction, and open space for the Department of Neighborhood Development, laid out the city’s plan to move the parcels away from city ownership and toward a use that would be beneficial for the community.

Eventually, after a public process, the lots would be sold to a potential developer or non-profit organization for development.

The lots were first highlighted in 2011 as a possible location for agricultural use as part of the city’s Urban Agriculture Pilot Program, but after the community pushed back plans were scrapped.

“The neighborhood in the past asked us to slow down the process and continue to work with the community,” Lee said.

Now DND is asking neighbors what uses they would like to see.

Although nothing is set in stone, Lee said from conversations with community leaders and residents a community garden and open space were themes that emerged.

Members of the Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation have also been pushing their own plan for the site, which includes a production garden, teaching garden, kitchen, and tot lot.

“Part of our mission is to impact and improve the quality of life of residents and this [community garden plan] is part of that overall vision,” explained Jason Boyd, director of community organizing for the development corporation.

“There are clear health disparities in this community and this will help combat that,” he added.

From a kitchen that will help educate local youth and families about the importance of healthy cooking to a garden that will show them how to grow their own crops, many at Wednesday’s meeting said turning the lots into an urban farm and community use would be huge for the neighborhood.

“My passion is showing our youth how to eat good food,” said Evelyn Harris, a 67-year-old Dorchester resident who lives close to the lots. “A lot of them eat too much processed food and it’s a danger to their health. We need to help people learn to eat properly.”

Located at approximately 114 Ballou Ave., when combined the four lots total an estimated 20,000-square-feet and are valued at approximately $140,000, according to the city’s Assessing Department.

Like with any city effort to move property, a Request for Proposals will be developed from resident comments and the project will be publicly advertised. Although the Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation’s project was certainly a favorite among those in attendance Wednesday night, it is no way a front runner or guaranteed.

“Even though we know there is a group working on a project we have to have an open process,” explained Lee.

Over the coming months, a draft RFP will be developed and brought back to the community for final revisions. Although there is no timeline for the project, Lee said a developer could be designated as early as the spring.

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

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