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.

Singleton lastly said that the community hope is that Nuestra Comunidad will rely on minority businesses for the work on the development, as the RFP also detailed.

“We haven’t seen what the minority business enterprise utilization is going to be,” Singleton said. “They have to do 40 percent or better. Interestingly enough in the RFP it says 51 percent. We would like to see that as a goal because it is in the RFP. It is something the community worked very hard to put together and said this is something we want.”

Nuestra Comunidad has played up the public plaza part of the design for Bartlett Place, which is slated to be used as an open market that will have arts and events venues. The corporation has dubbed the development a “creative village” and points to the recent success of Bartlett Events as an illustration of the fact that the Roxbury community welcomes such a thing. Since spring, events have been held on the property and local artists have created large murals on the sides of vacant buildings.

The positive community reaction has led Nuestra Comunidad to include 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.

Jason Turgeon, producer of Bartlett Events and a resident of the Highland Park neighborhood near the Bartlett Yard, sees the inclusion of the wall as a big win for the artistic community in Roxbury. “I think in the original design they were not really going to use that in that way,” he said. “I think that right there is a very concrete victory for us. I think we have had a pretty positive impact and I am hopeful that it lasts.”

Turgeon is encouraged that demolition on the site is slated to begin this fall. “How can you do worse than what is there now?” he asked. “You have an 8.5 acre brown field that has nothing on it and has been like that for 15 years. There are a lot of people that are still kind of frustrated that it is still a vacant lot. … I think there will be a general sense of relief when they finally break ground on the buildings. I think the sooner they break ground on that thing the better.”

Singleton wholeheartedly agrees with Turgeon on redeveloping the parcel. But Singleton says many have a slightly different view on the art and painting at Bartlett Yard and the community events that have been happening there.

“The reality is Nuestra Comunidad is supposed to be developing that site. … They are having all these events because they are trying to take attention from the fact that the site is not being developed,” Singleton said. “You are not supposed to be an events coordinator of the site. You are supposed to be a developer of the site. … People see through that. They are angry about what is going on there. … They also understand that Nuestra has been stalling.”

Nuestra Comunidad’s current plan for Bartlett Place has four proposed phases. The first phase will be about 100 units of housing and a grocery store. The second phase will target senior housing. The third phase is being considered to develop artist housing and work space. The fourth phase would be the development of homes for sale.