Major expansion proposed for South Bay shopping center
The operator of the South Bay shopping center in Dorchester is proposing a major expansion that would result in construction of several six-story buildings containing up to 500 apartments, 200 hotel rooms, a cinema, and stores.
Edens Inc., which owns several other East Coast shopping centers, would develop 10 acres to the south of the South Bay complex along Boston Street. Documents outlining the plan were released Wednesday by the Boston Redevelopment Authority.
Residential units would be new at South Bay; currently, it’s solely a shopping complex. Up to 115,000 square feet more retail space is proposed.
Edens also wants to add a 65,000-square-foot cinema and two parking garages, along with new roads and open space around the new buildings. The company has operated South Bay since 1998 and expanded it to Massachusetts Avenue in 2006.
Public officials from Dorchester said they look forward to a thorough community review of the plans and that the project appears to present an exciting opportunity for the neighborhood.
“People want to see first-class retail amenities come to the area,” said state Representative Daniel J. Hunt, whose district includes the area around South Bay. “But the devil is always in the details. The number of residential units needs to be vetted through the community.”
Councilor Frank Baker said the biggest concern for neighbors will be managing traffic around the expanded complex.
“I think the neighborhood will want to make sure we don’t have an additional 500 or 1,000 cars on Boston Street,” Baker said. “They’ll want to see that the exits empty into higher volume areas.”
The Edens proposal notes that the project site is a short walk from commuter rail service at Newmarket Station, as well as bus and subway service at Andrew Station on the MBTA’s Red Line.
In 2013, some neighbors developed a master plan for the property that called for several mixed-use buildings on the site. The plan also called for underground parking garages and open space in order to create a mini village square.
A community panel will be appointed to review the Edens proposal and host public meetings. The BRA would have to approve the plans before construction could begin.
In a statement last night, a BRA spokesman offered encouragement for the Edens plan.
“The proposed project would create a brand new community from what is currently an under-utilized industrial area,” spokesman Nick Martin said. “We look forward to reviewing more detailed plans and continuing a dialogue with neighbors there.”
The property is bounded by the existing shopping center and Enterprise, Boston, and West Howell streets. There are also vacant retail and industrial buildings at the site, a concrete plant, and parking lots.
Several big-box retail stores do business at South Bay, including Target, Home Depot, Best Buy, and Bed Bath & Beyond. Olive Garden and Panera Bread have restaurants on the property.
It remains unclear what retailers would be included in the expansion. But officials said they expect to see smaller stores, not more large-footprint retailers.
Dorchester and adjacent neighborhoods have attracted a flurry of development proposals in recent months, including major venues associated with the city’s bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games. “It’s a good indicator of how well we are doing economically,” Hunt said. “We’re breaking the logjam on projects that have been in the works or awaiting financing for a long time.”