Dot Block project gets new team, new look
A long-delayed development that promises to reshape a key corner of Dorchester is moving forward again, with one of Boston’s best-known developers at the helm.
Executives with Samuels & Associates told a Savin Hill neighborhood group this week that they have taken over management of the Dot Block project on Dorchester Avenue and aim to file new development plans with the city early next year.
News of the plan was first reported Thursday by the Dorchester Reporter.
Samuels, which built the South Bay shopping center in the 1990s and in recent years led a massive redevelopment of Boylston Street in the Fenway, joined the Dot Block project after it was purchased by billionaire Gerald Chan in 2016.
The developer is proposing changes to the plan that Boston Planning & Development Agency approved for the site in early 2016.
An above-ground garage will instead be put underground, making room for about 1.25 acres of open space on the roughly 4-acre site. The number of apartments will be increased by about one-third, to about 487. Large retail spaces, designed to attract something on the scale of a grocery store, will be swapped for smaller, neighborhood-oriented, storefronts. Buildings would remain the same height, and total density would grow by “less than 5 percent” from the original 388,000 square feet.
A team from Samuels outlined the changes at a meeting of the Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association, and said it plans to hold more community meetings in the coming months as the project is reviewed by the BPDA.
“Our collective team is excited by the opportunity to become part of this vibrant, diverse, and historic community,” Samuels said in a statement. “We look forward to moving forward in partnership with local residents in creating a thoughtful project on this important parcel.”
Samuels executives declined further comment until they’ve filed formal plans with the BPDA. Leaders of the civic association did not return messages Thursday.
Planning for the site — a smattering of light industrial buildings that were demolished earlier this year — has been in the works for several years. A group of local developers in early 2016 won BPDA approval for a cluster of apartment buildings there around a garage. They then sold the site for $19.1 million to a holding company owned by Chan — a wealthy investor best known for buying up apartment and retail buildings near Harvard Square in Cambridge.
Chan initially aimed to start construction this year, a spokeswoman said, but then brought in Samuels to update the plans, which will add housing and open space that some in the community have advocated. Now the goal is to break ground by the end of 2019.
The delays and changes have made Dot Block more expensive to build. The version approved by BPDA in early 2016 was expected to cost about $150 million; current plans project a price of around $200 million. They may also make the project more complicated, depending on the outcome of a broader neighborhood plan for Glover’s Corner. That section of Dorchester, where Dot Block is located, has been attracting a wave of new investment.
Activists are pushing for rules requiring more affordable housing and local hiring in new developments to help protect residents from being priced out of their neighborhoods. While those rules haven’t been finalized, in other neighborhoods where large-scale rezoning is underway the BPDA has generally encouraged new projects to follow the goals of the plan as it is being developed.
An agency spokeswoman was unavailable Thursday to discuss how the Glover’s Corner plan might affect Dot Block.