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Boston businesses competing for Ferdinand’s space

Sandra Larson | 4/2/2014, 10:55 a.m.
A recent city-sponsored open house at the Dudley branch library offered businesses a chance to talk informally with the public ...
Coffee shops, restaurants, an optometrist and an ice cream shop are among the business plans vying for one of the six storefront spaces in the new Ferdinand’s building. Banner Photo

“We have experience. We know the neighborhood. We know how to start a business,” said Morshed. Besides hiring several employees early on, he envisions summer job opportunities for area teens.

Tasty Burger proposer Dave DuBois started the Franklin Cafe in the South End in 1996, and has since opened Citizen Public House and Tasty Burger restaurants. He is aiming for one of the medium-size spaces that he said would seat 60 to 80 people. He described his burger joint and bar as “affordable, with healthy options, and a neighborhood place to hang out.” Prices for meat and vegetarian burger options will range from $4.25 to $5.75, he said.

The largest available space, in the iconic “point” of the old Ferdinand Building, is expected to hold a full-service restaurant with seating for upwards of 200 diners. Vying for all or part of this 7,800-square-foot “anchor” space are three proposers: Salvatore’s Italian restaurant, Clover Fast Food, and the Wilcox Hospitality group, owners of Parish Cafe and Estelle’s Southern Cuisine.

Other proposals include Bon Me, Touch of Perfection beauty school, a pizza shop operated by Haley House, a multicultural bookstore, and Starbucks, Subway and Burger King franchises, as well as the nonprofit Discover Roxbury, which wants to consolidate its office and programming operations and provide shared event and work space.

The proposals are now under review by a selection committee that will weigh such factors in the city’s request for proposal as prior business experience, capacity to fund the start-up and ongoing business cost, contribution to a desired mix of businesses for the area and willingness to be good citizens of the community. The request for proposal, issued last December, stated that “the City and local community are particularly interested in a vibrant retail mix that will enliven the district day and night, reinforce the well-being of the community, and strengthen the social fabric of the Dudley Square area.”

There is no plan for a formal public input process, said Dana Whiteside, deputy director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s Community Economic Development department, but the selection committee includes Dudley area stakeholders as well as city officials, he said.

The selection committee members are Joe Mulligan, deputy director of the city’s Property and Construction Management department (the builder of the municipal center); James Kennedy, of the city’s Office of Budget Management; Susan McCann of Boston Public Schools, the primary tenant of the building; Rafael Carbonell, deputy director of the Office of Business Development in the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development); Charlotte Nelson, a member of the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee and the Dudley Vision Advisory Task Force; Joyce Stanley, executive director of Dudley Main Streets and DVATF member; and Kathy Kottaridis, executive director of Historic Boston. 

No specific date has been set for a decision on the winning proposals, but it will have to be soon, as the selected tenants will need to complete lease negotiations and start on their design, build-out and permitting activities well in advance of the building’s opening in early 2015.