Following two years of public comment and community input, developers behind the mammoth 21-building Dorchester Bay City project have outlined changes to their proposal, including adding green space and slightly reducing its overall size.
Accordia Partners and Ares Real Estate Group have proposed a 6.1 million-square-foot project on 36 acres that span the former Bayside Expo Center site, a low-lying stretch of Santander offices along Morrissey Boulevard, and Boston Teachers Union headquarters on Mount Vernon Street. All told, the project would have 4 million square feet of lab and office space and 1,957 residential units, along with retail space.
It’s an enormous development that promises to transform a key corner of the city where South Boston meets Dorchester, address both transportation and climate challenges and bring a host of companies to the doorstep of UMass-Boston. But winning city approval has been a long process already.
Now the developers are proposing to reduce overall square footage by 350,000 square feet, swap a taller residential building for a low-lying retail pavilion and a waterfront park, and place residential units into what had originally been proposed as an office/research building. Two buildings closest to the water’s edge have been moved inland to accommodate for flood protection. Other sustainability efforts include a “flood ridge protection system” and elevating the overall site. The waterfront green space — called Dorchester Green and Dorchester Bay Esplanade — will include flexible space and a children’s playground, and Accordia is also pitching a learning and innovation center for job training.
Accordia has also boosted the number of affordable residential units within the project. Some 391 of the residential units — or 20 percent — would be affordable at 70 percent of the area median income, which is currently $98,150 for a family of four. (The revamped Dorchester Bay City proposal came in prior to Boston Mayor Michelle Wu seeking a change to the city’s affordable-housing policy.) The project previously proposed 15 percent.
In the two years since Accordia first proposed Dorchester Bay City, they’ve heard repeatedly from the community that the project failed to maximize the potential of its waterfront location, said Accordia co-managing partner Kirk Sykes. Under the updated proposal, nearly a quarter of the project’s 36 acres will be open green space, which Sykes said “is unparalleled in a large project like this.”
“There aren’t many places like this, in the city of Boston, when you consider the amount of open space at the water’s edge,” Sykes said.
Elizabeth Doyle, president of the Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association, said the neighborhood group had yet to take a formal position on Dorchester Bay City. While some appreciated the changes of decreasing the total size and adding green space, many are still concerned about the project’s overall height and density, Doyle said.
“It’s called Dorchester Bay City because it is a city,” she said.
It’s one of several big real estate developments planned in North Dorchester, including a seven-building, 1.56 million-square-foot lab and residential project around the Star Market across Morrissey Boulevard, and the revamped former Boston Globe headquarters, now called Southline Boston, just south of there. The Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association plans to ask the city for a comprehensive plan to understand the combined impact of the proposed development, Doyle said.
“In a neighborhood where traffic can be challenging and frustrating for residents now, new construction threatens to create major choke points not just for current residents and businesses, but for thousands of new residents, employees, commuters and travelers who pass through our neighborhood every day,” a draft of the letter the civic association plans to send to the city reads.
Accordia has committed to providing nearly $37 million in off-site transportation improvements — a majority of which would be provided in the first phase — as part of Dorchester Bay City’s transportation mitigation plan. Proposed upgrades include safety improvements along Columbia Road, Kosciuszko Circle, and Sydney Street, a new traffic signal on Day Boulevard, and reconstructing Mount Vernon Street between the JFK Red Line and University Drive.
And while the project has been years in planning, it likely has at least a year to go. Sykes said his team hopes to have city and state approvals completed by 2024.