Dudley Square survey results unveiled

Sandra Larson | 6/20/2012, 9:49 a.m.

‘Social gathering spots’ high on list of desired businesses

Sit-down restaurant, live music lounge and a bakery are among the most desired new businesses for Dudley Square, according to a survey commissioned by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and conducted earlier this year.

Peg Barringer, whose firm FinePoint Associates developed and analyzed the survey for the BRA, presented the Dudley Retail and Consumer Survey results June 14 at a public meeting of the Dudley Vision Advisory Task Force.

More than 1,300 people responded to the survey, which was offered online, by e-mail, face-to-face by hired survey workers in Dudley Square and on paper at several area businesses and agencies.

Three versions of the survey targeted different groups of interest: neighborhood residents and users of Dudley Station (“commuters”); current Dudley Square employees; and Boston Public School employees. The BPS employees are slated to relocate in 2014 to the municipal building now underway on the Ferdinand site. One of the purposes of the survey was to capture their spending habits and types of businesses they might patronize once they arrive in Dudley Square.

Barringer described general themes that emerged from the data.

There is a clear desire for social gathering and browsing spots, she said. Besides restaurant, live music venue and bakery, top choices included healthy food café, sandwich shop, burrito cafe, sports bar and ice cream/yogurt shop. In addition, a number of respondents “wrote in” coffee shop, specifying a desire for evening hours, seating and Internet access.

Another finding was that employees in Dudley Square and commuters coming through the bus station are important customers. They shop and eat in Dudley Square as much as or more than local residents do, the survey shows.

Only 18 percent of residents said they go to a Dudley Square restaurant/cafe weekly; for Dudley Square employees, that figure was 46 percent. About half of the residents, commuters and current employees said they shop at Dudley Square stores “once or twice per month” or more, with slightly higher percentages for employees and commuters.

Residents who took the survey tend to spend their shopping and dining dollars outside Dudley Square, Barringer noted.

Nearly one-third of the residents said they “rarely/never” go to Dudley restaurants. Yet more than half said they go to a full-service (sit-down with table service) restaurant for dinner twice a month or more. The top five full-service restaurants Dudley residents said they patronize are Friday’s, Olive Garden, Applebee’s, Legal Seafood and Cheesecake Factory — all outside the Dudley area.

For shopping, they are more likely to go to South Bay, Downtown Crossing and Copley/Prudential than Dudley.

Some of this “sales leakage” could potentially be captured, Barringer said, if existing or new businesses in Dudley begin offering the products and quality people are seeking.

She estimated that the 500 incoming BPS employees could bring $1.6 million annually in sales. Businesses or types of businesses that BPS employees currently use downtown might do well to consider opening up shop in Dudley Square.

In addition to food businesses, survey respondents indicated they would patronize establishments such as dry cleaner, clothing outlet store, bookstore, bowling alley and gym/yoga studio.