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Plan calls for apartments, storefronts in Four Corners

Martin Desmarais | 5/1/2014, 9:16 a.m.
The Vietnamese American Initiative for Development has proposed a $14.5 million new development in Four Corners that includes two buildings with both housing and commercial space. The project has 35 units of affordable housing. (Image courtesy of Viet-AID)

Vietnamese American Initiative for Development is slated to start construction this fall on a $14.5 million housing and commercial development project in Dorchester’s Four Corners neighborhood that proponents are hoping will kick start revitalization of the area.

Viet-AID, as the 20-year-old community development corporation is known, was one of 16 projects in the state that received funding from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development this year for projects to address demand for affordable housing as well as strengthen opportunities for local businesses.

The plans include one three-story building and one four-story building along Washington Street in Four Corners. Both buildings will have first floor commercial and community space, with rental units on the upper floors. The finished project is slated to have 35 new, affordable housing units. It includes nine city lots for which Viet-AID has been designated as the developer by the City of Boston and one private lot that Viet-AID purchased earlier this year.

“We are excited to see underutilized land in the Fairmount Corridor converted into sustainable, affordable housing,” Mayor Martin Walsh said in a statement about the project.

Backing Viet-AID on the project are the Greater Four Corners Action Coalition, Four Corners Main Street, and the members of the Fairmount Collaborative.

According to Nam Pham, executive director of Viet-AID, in addition to state funding, the project will be funded by loans, private investment and investment from Viet-AID. Backers include Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston and Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation.

The $14.5 million price tag is the expected total cost of the project and funding secured so far has Nam expecting construction to start in late October or earlier November with work completed in late 2015 or early 2016.

Viet-AID will begin accepting bids for work on the project in the next couple of months.

Situated along the MBTA’s Fairmont Line and in proximity to new commuter rail stop Four Corners/Geneva Avenue, the project can be lumped with some of the new development targeted in what is commonly referred to as the Fairmont Corridor, which the city is hoping will help boost local neighborhoods and businesses.

Nam views the project as one that can start to fulfill the promise his organization sees in Four Corners, with the addition of the new commuter rail stop as a catalyst for success. The organization has already completed half-a-dozen housing projects and the Vietnamese American community Center in Dorchester.

“For us, who have lived and worked here for 20 years, we believe there are many opportunities in Four Corners and along the Fairmont corridor for housing and for jobs,” Nam said. “It is a very, very good area.

“We look for any opportunities to improve the neighborhood,” he added.

Dynell Andrews-Blake, executive director of Four Corners Main Street, believes this project will do just that.

“This project is definitely going to stimulate that whole intersection,” Andrews-Blake said.

According to Andrews-Blake, Four Corners Main Street has spent a lot of time working with area businesses to establish a vision for the neighborhood and find a way to create a whole business district there. The consensus is that the Viet-AID project is a perfect complement to these ongoing efforts.