Roxbury residents: Nuestra Development’s Bartlett Yard plans still lacking

Martin Desmarais | 8/21/2013, 6 a.m.
Developers of the Bartlett Yard in Roxbury are set to begin demolition as early as November on the new Bartlett ...
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.

Developers of the Bartlett Yard in Roxbury are set to begin demolition as early as November on the new Bartlett Place and have a proposed plan that they feel is satisfactory to all.

While some neighboring residents welcome the project, many are discouraged that the plans do not meet a number of the original stipulations outlined by the city years ago.

A former MBTA bus yard, Bartlett Yard is now owned by Nuestra Comunidad Development Corp., and that company is working with Windale Developers on a $140 million project called Bartlett Place with the ultimate aim of developing 323 units of housing and 54,000 square feet of commercial property on 8.5 acres of land.

Also included will be a grocery store, shops, offices, a public market and plaza and new roads.

Roxbury resident Rodney Singleton is part of the Bartlett Yard Project Review Committee (PRC) and also creator and moderator of the listserve Highland Park Neighborhood Watch. He addressed the major concerns that neighborhood residents still have about the proposed Bartlett Place.

“The community was a real partner in crafting the language,” Singleton said. “Bartlett Yard was meant to be a place where the community could participate in ways that could foster and contribute wealth. That was the biggest thrust that we came up with as a community.”

Singleton said building wealth at Bartlett Yard can happen in a number of ways, including through home ownership, starting a business and working as part of the construction and development.

He pointed out that the focus on “building wealth” was included in the PRC’s Request for Proposal (RFP) that Nuestra Comunidad agreed to in 2006 when they won the right to develop Bartlett Yard. Now, he added, Roxbury residents feel this has been lost in the current plans for Bartlett Place.

“It is very disturbing to me that we seem to have forgotten that the developer responds to the PRC,” said Singleton. “What the community ends up with is usually not what was in the Request for Proposal, and that to me is very frustrating.”

While Singleton said there is satisfaction that the Nuestra Comunidad is in talks with a local Boston-based grocery store to be part of the first phase of Bartlett Place, there are still worries about how any other local businesses might be involved.

“This idea of building wealth should extend to local business,” Singleton said. “There is not a lot of retail space there. … Can you get a mom and pop store in Bartlett Place? Is the rent something they can afford? Are we growing our own local businesses in ways that they can build wealth too?”

Another concern is that the idea of “building wealth through home ownership” is not going to be addressed in the Bartlett Place project until the final phase of Nuestra Comunidad’s current plan. Singleton says there are major concerns that, tucked away on the last phase of the project, this wealth building will never actually happen.

He also said that the original RFP called for the housing to be one-third low-income housing, one-third moderate-income housing and one-third market-rate housing. For the proposed 332 units of housing at Bartlett Place this would mean about 110 units of each. However, plans now detail 60 percent affordable and 40 percent moderately priced or market-rate housing. The housing will be a mixture of homes for sale and rental units.