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Demolition set to begin on Bartlett Yard

Martin Desmarais | 8/14/2013, 10:55 a.m.
Plans for Bartlett Place, which will be developed on the former MBTA Bartlett bus yard in Roxbury, include 323 units of housing and 54,000 square feet of commercial property. Nuestra Comunidad Development Corp. will lead the project, which has an estimated total cost of about $140 million. Nuestra Comunidad Development Corp.

One proposal that drew a large outcry would have brought a Walmart store to the site. This plan was eventually shot down when Mayor Thomas M. Menino stepped in and spoke against the project due to worries about the impact on local retailers. Matel said that Nuestra Comunidad Development now is in discussion with a local grocery store to come into the development.

In the past, many of the development plans have had a tough road because the site was owned by the MBTA. City involvement delayed approvals and the process in general, Matel said. But in 2010, Nuestra Comunidad Development bought the Bartlett Yard property and the company is committed to making development happen.

No matter how things turn out on the final development plans, the company will put up $9 million, the estimated cost for acquisition of the land, design work and cleaning up the site.

At least one government organization is fully behind Nuestra Comunidad Development’s efforts to clean up the Bartlett Yard site. The Environmental Protection Agency has already given the company $1 million in grants to demolish the old buildings and clean up the old site. In 2011, Nuestra Comunidad Development got a $600,000 EPA remediation grant and they got another $400,000 grant this year.

Demolition work on Bartlett Yard could begin as early as November. “The site will be potentially cleaned up by spring of next year, so we will have 8.5 acres of cleaned up land — no buildings,” Matel said.

From the start, Nuestra Comunidad Development has dubbed the Bartlett Place project a “creative village.”

“The housing and the commercial property is wrapped around a public plaza — an open market that will have arts and events venues and walkability,” Matel said. “We look at parts of the programing as a public plaza and making sure the artists are actually here so they can activate the place.”

However, until this spring when Bartlett Events started to hold events on the property and created a large mural of painting and graffiti art, locals didn’t have much sense of what a “creative village” might actually mean to the area.

But many of the weekends have now seen well-attended events showcasing art and culture and community gatherings from different organizations.

Matel said Nuestra Comunidad Development is thrilled with the success of Bartlett Events so far and hopes that it shows the company wants to partner with community events. Bartlett Events will continue to host events on the property into the fall.

“We didn’t think it would reach this kind of success.” Matel said. “For us it is serving as a community development tool.

“In this scenario we are testing things and we are actually seeing it is working,” he added. “It has panned out to work very well.”

In fact, the community reaction to Bartlett Events and the art and murals in particular has led to Nuestra Comunidad Development including plans to keep a 20-foot L-shaped wall, which is covered with a mural, in the final development of Bartlett Place. The wall will be used as a backdrop for public events. “That is the only part of the development that is staying,” Matel said.

The Bartlett Place project is now going through the zoning process and will go before the zoning board in September. “The development isn’t going to start until next year potentially, but we are demo-ing the buildings this fall,” said Matel.

Bartlett Place is taking a cue from other recent development in the region, such as the revitalization of Dudley Square. “We are trying to bring the same kind of positive energy that the city is bringing to that development,” Matel said. “We are making sure the buildings are sustainable and making sure we give cultural community benefits back to the community. … We are putting culture up front at the forefront of our development so that the community can enjoy it.”