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Residents hopeful for Dudley Square rejuvenation

Yawu Miller | 6/29/2011, 1:48 p.m.
Attending the Come Back to Dudley press conference Saturday were Dudley Square Main Streets board members Jumada Abdal Khallaq, Kaidi Grant, Executive Director Joyce Stanley, Fred Fairfield and volunteer Michell Murray. Yawu Miller



Ordinarily, the installation of a public toilet may not seem like cause for celebration.

But in Dudley Square, where advocates have been seeking a public toilet since the pre-existing one was demolished in 1987, a new pay-as-you-go latrine is progress.

And it’s a symbol of the public and private investment that has made Dudley Square a more inviting place for the commuters, shoppers and workers who pass through Roxbury’s commercial and transportation hub.

“Dudley has always been a vibrant place,” said Clayton Turnbull, who owns a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise in the bus station.

Turnbull and a team of business owners and civic leaders have been walking through Dudley Square on a weekly and sometimes a daily basis, identifying problem areas and working with city and state officials to develop solutions, including pressure washing sidewalks, graffiti removal and anti-crime initiatives that have cut the crime rate by 30 percent in Dudley.

“We haven’t raised our fingers at anyone,” Turnbull said. “We haven’t threatened anyone. But we’ve been able to get things done.”

Saturday, Turnbull, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, MBTA General Manager Richard Davies and other officials gathered in Dudley Square for an event billed as Come Back to Dudley, highlighting the many improvements in the area.

Menino touted the planned redevelopment of the Ferdinand Furniture store into city office space and the construction of the new Area B Police sub-station as examples of public investment in the area.

“I believe in Dudley,” Menino said. “I’m staying with it all the way. We’ve got government working together. We’ve got the neighborhood working together. That’s what it’s all about.”

In the earlier part of the 20th century, Dudley Square was the second largest shopping district in all of New England behind downtown Boston. Trains, trolleys and buses once brought passengers to Dudley from all over the city.

As capital left the inner cities in the 1950s and 1960s, the area began a long downhill slide.

The district took a hit in 1987, when the elevated Orange Line was dismantled and train service was moved to the Southwest Corridor.

But in a community with a high percentage of residents entirely dependent on public transportation, Dudley still plays a key role in the economic vitality of the Roxbury community. The station is the second busiest bus terminal in the entire MBTA system, with 30,000 riders passing through on a typical weekday.

Davies noted the MBTA has installed a new police kiosk in the station and will soon install countdown clocks to let customers know when buses are coming to the station.

Noting that Dudley Square lies at the center of Boston, City Councilor Tito Jackson said the area’s revitalization should be a key step in improving the city.

“Now is the time for Dudley to step up and get the things we’ve needed for a long time,” he said. “What we’ll see with the redevelopment of parcels 9 and 10 and the Blair lot is the rejuvenation of the city of Boston.”

The lots Jackson referenced remain vacant, for the moment. But extensive community-driven design charettes have laid out a vision for the redevelopment of the Dudley Square area that finally seems nearer to realization.

The public investment has been mirrored in the opening of new businesses in the area, including a new department store and flower shop.