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Roxbury residents hear proposals for major neighborhood developments

Posted by Patrick Rosso  June 5, 2012 12:28 PM

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Signs of life are beginning to show on a few Roxbury parcels as developers begin planning major construction projects for the neighborhood.

The Roxbury community and the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee came together Monday night to discuss the projects and get a rundown about when and what they will see popping up in their neighborhood.

The three projects presented Monday night represent a major boom in development for the neighborhood with each proposal bringing the potential of new jobs, retail space, hotels, and more affordable and market rate housing.

Andrew Weesner, a project manger with Urbanica Design + Development, was the first to present Monday night at the Dudley Branch Library.

His group’s proposal, which received tentative designation by the Boston Redevelopment Authority May 15, would construct a 10-story hotel dubbed the “Melnea Hotel & Residences” with an estimated 150-162 rooms.

The project also includes 20,000-square-feet of ground-floor commercial/retail space, 52-mixed income housing units, and 139 underground parking spaces on the 1.3-acre Parcel 9, which is located on the northern corner of Melnea Cass Boulevard and Washington Street.

According to Weesner, Urbanica has already met twice with the BRA and is currently working on the Article 80 review process, which includes further BRA vetting and community input. Weesner said his group hopes in the long-term to secure a hotel brand to fill the space, gather financing, and receive city approval in a year.

Short-term goals for the project, according to Weesner, include gathering a design team, surveying the site, creating an expanded Project Notification Form, and creating a schematic design.

To read Urbanica Design + Development’s proposal for Parcel 9, click here.

Residents at Monday night's meeting also heard about Madison Tropical LLC’s proposal that would merge the land currently owned by the supermarket Tropical Foods International with the publicly owned 2-acre Parcel 10, located on the southern corner of Washington Street and Melnea Cass Boulevard.

The proposal tentatively approved by the BRA in May, represents a joint venture between the Madison Park Community Development Corporation and Tropical Foods International.

The proposal calls for the construction of a 20,000-square-foot space for a new Tropical Foods Supermarket and another 20,000-square-fetet of warehouse/office space. The second building is proposed to house 36 mixed-income units, street-level commercial/retail space, and office space on the upper floors. A third build currently on the property would be rehabilitated to house 30 affordable units, with at-grade parking.

Ronn Garry, Jr., president of Tropical Foods International, and Jeanne Pinado, executive director of the Madison Park CDC, were on hand Monday to take questions from the audience.

Many were curious about what the rent would be like at the buildings.

Pinado estimated that “low-income” two-bedrooms would cost $1,300 – $1,400 a month and a “market-rate” two-bedroom would cost $2,000 a month.

But while both residents and developers were excited to break ground and stimulate a long forgotten corner in Roxbury, Madison Tropical LLC’s project still has quite a ways to go.

The development team is still working to finalize the Article 80 documents, gather a design team, and survey the site. Developers have one year to prepare their Article 80 documents and receive BRA Board approval.

To read Madison Tropical LLC’s proposal for Parcel 10, click here.

The developers of the “Tremont Crossing” project, located on the eight-acre Parcel 3, which is bound by Tremont, Whittier, and Downing Street, also talked to the audience about their project. They will be seeking a six-month extension on their tentative BRA designation.

“In light of the fact that the team has submitted an Article 80 and has made good progress with the urban design it would be recommended at this time that there be a sixth month extension,” said Dana Whiteside, deputy director of community and economic development for the BRA.

The project, which has already submitted its Article 80 documents and has had community meetings, proposes constructing 500,000-square-feet of retail space, 200,000-square-feet of office space, a 240 unit, 11-story apartment building, a space for the National Center for Afro-American Artists, a public plaza, and an above-grade 1,700 space parking garage.

“Our marketing effort to prospective tenets is going well,” said Jeffery Feldman, vice president of Feldco Development. “People are really excited about the location and we feel good about the direction we are heading.”

Many said they were excited to see the project come to the neighborhood, but raised concerns about the extension.

“I’m a little concerned that when we (Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee) make these recommendation and timelines we have no say in anything beyond that,” said Kevin Cheery, RSMPOC member. “It seems our role has been usurped.”

Many on the committee expressed that an extension sets a precedent in the neighborhood for future development.

“This speaks to the urgency we have to move this forward,” said City Councilor Tito Jackson, who sits on the committee. “Yes I do think we should give them more time but there is an urgency to move this forward and we need to make sure this project moves.”

To read more about the “Tremont Crossings” proposal, click here.

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

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