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Restaurant, shops anticipated for first floor of Ferdinand site

Sandra Larson | 1/17/2013, 9:06 a.m.

When Boston Mayor Thomas Menino announced in March, 2011 that the city would redevelop the long-vacant Ferdinand’s Furniture site in Dudley Square, he described the plan as not only a way to consolidate the Boston Public Schools (BPS) department and move it closer to where the city’s school-aged children live, but also to help restore Dudley Square’s vibrancy as a business district.

At the groundbreaking ceremony last spring, Menino reiterated that hope.

“Our goal is simple: to bring more people and economic life to historic Dudley Square,” he said.

The new six-story building will bring an influx of some 500 new employees, adding foot traffic for local shops and food and service providers. If all goes well, when the building opens in early 2015, many of these workers will stop for morning coffee here, buy lunch there, pick up groceries or go out to dinner after work, drop off dry cleaning or do some shopping at lunch hour — giving a boost to existing and new area businesses.

Street-facing storefronts will fill the ground floor of the new building, which occupies the entire block bounded by Washington and Warren Streets and Dudley station. The hope is that these businesses will inject extra life into the area beyond workday hours. Adding evening activity, rather than having businesses go dark at 5 p.m., has long been desired by community members.

What sort of businesses will move into these storefronts is still undetermined. But with the building’s overall design plans solidified and construction underway, project planners are now ready to address the what, when and how of the retail.

On Jan. 31, a Dudley Vision Advisory Task Force meeting will address the building’s retail component. Consultant Chris Gordon, a Harvard Business School lecturer who has been an adviser to the city on the Dudley plan, will present information about the retail space, how it could be divided up and utilized, and what steps business owners should take if they are interested in leasing space. The meeting will be held at Central Boston Elder Services in Dudley Square from 6 to 8 p.m. and is open to the public.

The total amount of space available is about 18,000 square feet, according to Gordon, and could be subdivided in a number of ways, depending on what types of businesses want to locate there. The space will probably hold about four or five establishments, he estimated.

Last June, the Task Force and members of the public heard the results of the Dudley Retail and Consumer Survey administered in spring of 2012. The survey was commissioned by the Boston Redevelopment Authority to measure where people who live, work, or travel through Dudley Square tend to shop and dine, and what types of businesses they want to see in the area. The survey was also given to BPS employees.

Among the most desired businesses were a sit-down restaurant, live music lounge and bakery. Other top choices included clothing outlet store, sandwich shop, burrito cafe, sports bar, ice cream/yogurt shop and a coffee shop with seating, evening hours and Internet access.