Developing a vision for a new Melnea Cass

Sandra Larson | 11/8/2011, 8:09 p.m.

All of the proposals include housing, but they vary in their proportion of affordable vs. market rate and rental vs. owned units — and in their philosophy of what Roxbury wants and needs.

“Roxbury does not want to be an island for all affordable housing,” said Kamran Zahedi, president of Urbanica, the Melnea Group’s design and development firm. Through research and by attending many community meetings, he said, he had concluded that “the area needs jobs, needs market rate housing, and needs places to go.” His project includes mostly market rate apartments, with 15 percent affordable.

The two-parcel Washington Crossing plan was described as high end residential and retail, with an emphasis on “jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs,” according to Tom Bauer of Bauer Properties, one of the equity partners on the project team.

“We’ll have some affordable housing, because we have to,” Bauer said — but the emphasis will be on “work force housing” rather than low-income. Dan Rivers of Essential Capital, also a Washington Crossing partner, received a smattering of applause when he asserted, “Roxbury doesn’t need any more affordable housing.”

But Nuestra Comunidad’s David Price, in describing Shawmut Green, took a different stance. He stressed that public land should be used for housing, especially affordable housing, and that “home ownership within reach of the local community” is a key goal. “We have a choice,” Price said. “Will this area look like the South End in 10 or 20 years, or will it have a more diverse population?”

Jeanne Pinado, CEO and executive director of Madison Park Development Corporation, said the housing at Madison/Tropical would be primarily work force and market rate one- and two-bedroom apartments, with 11 percent (seven units) set aside for formerly homeless families.

In the limited audience response time, questions touched on types of retail uses, work force diversity goals, percent of affordable housing, whether people in market rate and affordable housing would feel separated or mixed, and how proposed uses might compete/overlap with other housing, local businesses and arts centers.

A 15-member Project Review Committee (PRC) has been formed to evaluate the proposals. The PRC includes five people from the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee, and 10 others appointed by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) from a pool of nominations by the Roxbury Neighborhood Council and local elected officials.

The PRC will analyze the four proposals in light of the goals laid out in the Request for Proposal (RFP) issued by the BRA last spring and in the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan (RSMP), devised in the 1990s and 2000s by the BRA and the local community. Some of the key goals in those documents are local job and wealth creation, affordable housing, and a socially and economically vibrant Roxbury.

Proposals should contain “a significant retail component,” according to the RFP, that provides business opportunities for local residents, enhances the role of Dudley Square as Roxbury’s commercial center, and includes both evening and daytime uses. The RFP requests that developments “provide space for locally owned businesses that cater to the community and complement, rather than compete with, existing Dudley Square businesses.”

The next meeting for review and discussion of the proposals will be Nov. 15 at 6 p.m. at the Urban League of Massachusetts, 88 Warren St. The proposals may be viewed at the Dudley and South End branches of the Boston Public Library and at the BRA office on the 9th floor of Boston City Hall.