A busy Dorchester corner will soon be home to a bookstore, in the ground floor of a new apartment building.
Founders Porsha Olayiwola and Bing Broderick — who both live less than a mile from the project, on Dorchester Avenue near the Fields Corner MBTA station — envision a shop that is “culturally curated, radically influenced, and locally inspired,” as the official tagline goes. At 1,300 square feet, it’ll feature a smattering of adult and children’s literature, including selections from local writers such as Olayiwola, the poet laureate of Boston and author of “I Shimmer Sometimes, Too.” Broderick is also well-regarded around town as the former executive director of Haley House, a nonprofit based in the South End and Roxbury.
The pair speaks lyrically about what they want The Book Shop at 1463 Dorchester Ave. to be: a literary haven, a community spot, a bar — right in the heart of one of Boston’s most diverse neighborhoods.
“The place where curious things are happening,” as Broderick put it. “There’s something storybook about the way the Red Line just goes right by the store. I got chills just being there.”
Even the name isn’t set in stone. Olayiwola came up with The Book Shop, but in the coming months, she hopes to put out a call for submissions that are more colorful. The Corner Shelf is a maybe; anything that plays on the “Dot” moniker is a no.
Broderick and Olayiwola hope to open in fall 2023, though there’s plenty to do before. They have plans to install a beverage bar — ideally, one actually made of books — that sells coffee, beer, wine, and story-inspired smoothies. Together, they’ll line up programming, such as teen nights, book clubs, and kids’ reading hours, to keep the building lively well into the evening. And they need money.
The store is courting private donors and applying for grants to fund buildout and opening costs, Broderick said. They also hope to raise $500,000 in donations from the community. (The website and crowdfunding landing page launches on Nov. 15. In the meantime, the founders started a mailing list at bit.ly/TheBookShop_Dot.)
The Book Shop will live inside a five-story building, with 29 affordable housing units, owned jointly by TLee Development and investors from the community.
Miriam Gee, a community engagement consultant working with developer Travis Lee, said 81 people put in $500 and up to gain equity in 1463 Dorchester Ave., raising $142,500 in all. Most of the building will function as small housing built under the City of Boston’s Compact Living Pilot, Gee added.
But an amalgamation of people came together to choose the retail tenant for ground floor.
The Book Shop and three other businesses submitted applications to the developer, who narrowed the choices down to two that were financially viable and enmeshed in the Fields Corner neighborhood. Then, the decision fell to the public and an elected project oversight committee, made up of three investors and a seat for the developer. (When residents arrive in spring/summer 2023, they will take up three additional spots on the committee.)
The Book Shop had to pitch itself to the public on Sept. 8 and received feedback from 90 people, including 63 Dorchester residents. Olayiwola said the process — from application to approval — took around five months.
“In the end, overwhelmingly,” Gee said, “a bookstore is what the people wanted.”
The announcement tops off a busy few months of bookstore news. The Beacon Hill Bookstore opened in September on Charles Street, and two new Barnes & Nobles locations are en route in Dedham and Lynnfield. Harvard Book Store said this summer that it will open a second location in the Prudential Building. Even the behemoth Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner expanded (again) last month.
Olayiwola sees that as good fortune for a city that could always use spots for conversation and learning.
“What is the space where people can gather, where artists can come and write and practice?” she asked. “Where people can come and talk about things that are happening in the world or in other worlds?”
Maybe, The Book Shop is the answer.