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Local economic boost seen in hotel coming to Dudley area

Jule Pattison-Gordon
Local economic boost seen in hotel coming to Dudley area
Artist’s rendering of the site. (Photo: Photo: Courtesy Urbanica Design)

A long-planned hotel project could break ground near Dudley Square by the end of this year.

Marriott Residence Inn will be constructed on parcel 9, a city-owned vacant lot at Melnea Cass Boulevard and Washington Street. Groundbreaking previously was planned for 2015, but was delayed in a dispute over worker pay, which some community members said was too low to allow economic benefits to be shared with local residents. City Councilors Ayanna Pressley and Tito Jackson also stepped in to push for higher compensation, and ultimately the hotel agreed to a starting minimum wage of $18 per hour.

These changes cast the project in a new light.

“I think [the hotel] is positive,” Jorge Martinez, co-chair of the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee, told the Banner. “We’re going to get jobs out of it, it’s going to beautify that area and going to spur additional development along the boulevard.”

There will be about 40 hotel jobs, said Kamran Zahedi, president of Urbanica, the site’s developer, and about $400,000 will be spent on workforce training.

Martinez says he recommends that the developers spend the money on local organizations that already provide workforce development and solicit community advice on which kinds of trainings to bolster.

Under phase one of construction, 135 hotel rooms will be built. This phase is ready to go once permitting and licenses are settled — an eight- to ten-week process, Zahedi predicted, speaking to the Banner by phone last week. Next: 50 apartments, which Martinez said had been presented as designed for short-term stay by people working at the medical center or visiting children in college. The units are not expected to be used by Roxbury residents. Zahedi did not yet have information on any affordability levels for the apartments.

There also will be approximately 8,000 square feet of retail, with no details yet set for the kinds of businesses to occupy the space, Zahedi said, although the hotel seeks a liquor license.

Local offerings

One advantage of the hotel, Martinez said, is it is will enhance offerings to residents. The hotel complex likely will include a nice restaurant and may spur the creation of other restaurants, providing closer options for residents who otherwise might go downtown or to the other side of Dorchester, he said. Along with convenience, this will help keep dollars local, he added.

“We’ll be able to keep our folks within the immediate area where we can turn a dollar over and over within the neighborhood,” Martinez said.

Specifics of retail space remain in the air, and community members have requested some small storefronts be provided for small local entrepreneurs, Martinez said.

Joyce Stanley, executive director for Dudley Square Main Streets, said the hotel is unlikely to generate night business in Dudley Square unless measures are taken to facilitate travelers’ exploration of the area. This could mean maps in the hotel showing where to go in Dudley, shared marketing or even a trolley between the two areas.

“If you’re in a hotel, you’re not going to go six blocks up the street, unless you know something about the neighborhood, especially at night,” Stanley told the Banner.

Should that barrier be dropped, though, the extra business could help stores stay open later.

Stanley said she did not expect the hotel to prompt many new businesses to come to her district, given that onsite retail space is limited and Dudley Square currently struggles to find available spots.

What the hotel will do for the economy, however, Stanley said, is attract higher income customers to an area where many venues are reliant on people with more limited spending ability.

“A lot of the small restaurants right now depend on people with once-a-month income and people basically living on either welfare or social security,” Stanley said. “They don’t have a lot of money to spend on all the little cafés and things people want. You either have to bring people from outside or you have to increase the incomes in the district.”