Metro

Developer proposes an enclave for teachers in Dudley Square

Teachers Place, depicted in a rendering, would offer below-rate rents and condos to educators and other city workers.
Urbanica
Teachers Place, depicted in a rendering, would offer below-rate rents and condos to educators and other city workers.

As the city grapples with Roxbury’s future, a local developer has proposed a residential hub for teachers on a dormant city parcel in Dudley Square.

“Teachers Place” — one of four proposals under consideration — envisions an enclave of “like-minded” educators, artists, and other city workers on the site at the old police station at Dudley and Warren streets, said the developer and city officials.

Kamran Zahedi, the head of Urbanica, a Boston design and development company, said he came up with the idea after years of studying Dudley Square, once the second-busiest commercial district in the city, and seeing employment-themed developments in other cities.

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“How can I bring back a lost identity to the Dudley Square area?’’ Zahedi said. “There is the whole idea that the people who work in Boston also need to live in Boston. In order to do that we need to create housing for them.”

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The proposed project comes amid the city’s push to revive Dudley Square, a historically black district, whose long-promised renaissance has been slow to come. Recently Dudley Square has been beleaguered by the closings of several small businesses.

Revival efforts include an innovation hub with a creative technology lab inside the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building, which houses more than 400 employees in the city’s school administrative offices. Officials have said a jazz club will soon open on the first floor of the building.

Just outside the square, the city recently gave the green light to the long-stalled “Tremont Crossing” project, an immense complex of big retailers and residential space. Housing and a Marriott Residence Inn are rising on a once-fallow city strip at Melnea Cass Boulevard and Washington Street. A proposal is in the works to redevelop The Alexandra Hotel at the Roxbury-South End border.

All four development proposals for the old police station site include mixed-income housing and commercial spaces.

Boston, MA - 4/17/19 Now being used as permitted parking for the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building, the site of the old police station in Dudley Square is being considered for development as a teachers' village. Photo by Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff Topic: 17teachersplace Reporter: Meghan Irons
Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
The site of the old police station in Dudley Square, which is currently being used as permitted parking for the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building, is being considered for development as a teachers' village.
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“This is the biggest lot, the most prominent, and most visible,’’ said Brian Keith, a member of a review committee for the project. “It is right across from Dudley Station.”

Trinity Financial’s proposal also includes a major arts and cultural center. Nuestra Comunidad and Dakota Plaza have proposed more than an acre of parks, landscape, and programmed community space, including a “living lab stormwater garden.”

Cruz Development’s proposal would include underground parking and “workforce’’ housing with rents starting at $658 monthly and condos starting at $251,000 for those who qualify, according to the firm’s president.

The “Teachers Place” proposal seeks 261 units of mixed-income housing for rent and ownership, parking, and condos for purchase. It would have 15,000 square feet of commercial room, including an educational “Q Space” for customized training programs, a “micro-market” with small stalls for local businesses and a kitchen incubator for food startups, the proposal said.

Zahedi, noting that rents in his proposal would start at $893 monthly and condo sale prices at $147,100, said his team would target schools, teachers’ unions, and other groups to “pre-market” the housing units to those working in education.

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The proposed property is also close to the Boston Public Library’s Dudley branch, more than 10 schools, and nonprofits such as the Roxbury YMCA.

Zahedi said Urbanica’s team includes RBH Group, whose Teachers Village is a focal point in downtown Newark, N.J.

Lillie Marshall, a city teacher who works nearby, said she likes the proposed “Teachers Place,” particularly the convenience and economic inclusiveness.

“Dudley has buses that go most anywhere in the city . . . and the site is in close proximity to a large number of schools — not to mention the [Boston Public Schools] headquarters itself,’’ Marshall said.

But Jose Lopez, a Roxbury resident and lawyer, said he is withholding judgment until he sees the final plan. He questioned whether the proposal contains any of the vision residents detailed in their master plan for Roxbury more than 15 years ago.

He said development in Roxbury has been done “parcel by parcel,” and residents often don’t know about the process until it is too late. Lopez contended that with the lack of diversity among the city teaching staff, he worries the project would increase gentrification in Roxbury.

Just 22 percent of the city’s 4,464 public school teachers are black, 11 percent Hispanic, and 6 percent Asian, city data show. Boston public schools teachers make an average of $91,000 annually, school officials said.

“So the question is who do these units go to?” Lopez said. “If we do it now, they will go to teachers [who are not of color.]”

The 15-member committee is reviewing nine redevelopment proposals for the four parcels in Roxbury owned by the Department of Neighborhood Development, city officials said.

“What we need as [members of the project review committee] is definitely more input from the community,’’ Keith said. “We were chosen last year, but there are just 15 of us. And we can’t speak for everyone in the community.”

He urged the public to add their comments to the Department of Neighborhood Development’s website. Two community meetings — in February and last week — have been held on the proposals for the site.

The committee will make its recommendations for developers for the four sites — on Dudley, Washington, and Warren Streets — to the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee, which is tasked with finding developers for empty parcels in Roxbury. The oversight committee, officials said, is expected to send a report to Mayor Martin J. Walsh by the end of summer.

Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @MeghanIrons.