A proposal to bring 11 new buildings to a long-neglected stretch of industrial land and metal scrapyard in South Boston, remaking Andrew Square in the process, cleared a major hurdle on Thursday.
The Boston Planning and Development Agency board approved a master plan for Core Investments Inc.’s On the Dot, a life-science, residential, and retail project planned on 21 acres of largely industrial land along Dorchester Ave. just north of the MBTA’s Andrew Station.
The board also approved five housing projects in East Boston, Mattapan, Mission Hill, and South Boston with a combined 233 residential units, along with upgrades to the Frederick Douglass Peace Garden in Roxbury and a tax deal facilitating Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology’s new campus in Nubian Square.
In Andrew Square, Core’s site includes the spot where it once pitched a last-mile distribution center for Amazon, which the BPDA did not support. What’s approved now is far larger: a 3.8 million-square-foot life science and residential project, with 11 buildings ranging in height from 150 to 250 feet and 2.9 acres of open space. The project site borders National Development’s planned four-building office and lab complex farther up Dorchester Avenue, and together they promise a wholesale remaking of this formerly-industrial corridor of South Boston.
On the Dot’s five residential buildings will have 1,450 apartments, of which 17 percent will be set aside at affordable rents, along with 2.4 million square feet of life-science facilities, offices, and retail in six other buildings. Core expects buildout to take 10 to 15 years, over four phases, the first including a 325-unit apartment building at 495 Dorchester Ave.
“This is not an overnight transformation of this area,” said John Cissel, Core Investments’ president of development, in a July public meeting. “As much as we’re excited about building buildings and transforming the neighborhood, we also want to do it with great care.”
Core is already a major presence in South Boston’s Andrew Square, with flex industrial space on Alger Street and its Washington Village housing and retail project already under construction. The developer has hosted weekly community events, including an upcoming Oktoberfest, and has shown “endless” commitment to the neighborhood, Linda Zablocki of the Andrew Square Civic Association said at Thursday’s BPDA meeting.
“This will be absolutely the place to go,” Zablocki said. “It’s a long time coming — and we’ve been waiting a long time.”
The BPDA board also approved Mayor Michelle Wu’s short-term incentives program for converting underutilized downtown office buildings to residential units. The program would allow building owners to switch from a commercial tax rate to a residential tax rate — a cut of $13.94 per $1,000 of assessed value — and then further discount those property taxes by up to 75 percent for 29 years.
John Weil, the BPDA’s senior project manager for downtown conversions, said the city has met with state and federal officials to explore additional funding sources to supplement the program.
Governor Maura Healey’s administration is preparing to unveil a housing bond bill, and the state’s housing office is “reviewing several policy options with the goal of expanding and expediting housing production across the Commonwealth,” a spokesperson said.
Boston’s program would cover most of the Financial District and Downtown Crossing, excluding Beacon Hill and most of the North End, and also extends into much of Fort Point. Developers can start applying on Oct. 16, and must commit to receiving a building permit and starting construction within two years. So far there are six buildings that would make “good candidates” for conversion, Weil said, with additional interest from other building owners.
Following up on its August approval of PLAN: Newmarket — a planning guideline outlining three different industrial zones within overlapping portions of South Boston, the South End, Dorchester, and Roxbury — the BPDA board heard another presentation on the document.
However, members agreed to table the decision to send it to the Boston Zoning Commission after testimony from Representative Stephen Lynch, a Democrat who represents parts of the area.
Lynch said he was concerned that the plan doesn’t allow for housing because “we’ve got a real need for that in the city, as I’m sure you’re aware.” He also said the program does not address problems like open drug use and trafficking at Mass and Cass.
“Does this zoning include applying the laws in that area now? Are we going to change that? Or are we going to still do what we’ve been doing, which is to just to turn a blind eye to it?” Lynch asked.
BPDA Director Arthur Jemison promised a personal briefing on the plan.
A prior version of this story inaccurately reported an action taken by the Boston Planning and Development Agency board on PLAN: Newmarket. The board voted to table a petition to send the plan to the Boston Zoning Commission. The Boston Globe regrets the error.