^ private investment takes the lead in Roxbury now : Governor Baker presides at ribbon-cutting opening of the new Tropical Foods supermarket along Cass Boulevard.
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This week Governor Baker announced that he was putting on hold the previously planned move of the Department of Transportation (DOT) to our neighborhood. Baker gave his reasons : first, the State hasn’t found a buyer for the DOT’s current headquarters in Park Square; second, Baker feels that the DOT needs to focus on fixing the state’s transit difficulties and not be distracted by such a huge move; and third, the move may n ot be necessary, after all, for its original purpose.
When Governor Patrick first ordered the move, it foresaw bringing a large number of government employees, some quite well paid, into a neighborhood that then badly needed such an economic boost. Instead, the boost was given by the City of boston moving its School department central office into the refurbished Ferdinand Building in Dudley Square. That building — indeed, the entire block — now renamed for the late Bruce C. Bolling, is now office to over 500 school employees, many of them well paid. The move has brought plenty of change to Dudley Sauare, and much investment. The grand opening, three weeks ago, of Tropical Foods’s new supermarket, makes that clear.
It no longer seems necessary to use government offices as a catalyst to business development in our neighborhood. Why should it ? Melnea Cass Boulevard brings commercial traffic directly to us. Where Cass Boulevard meets Tremont Street, it carries that traffic forward past Roxbury Community College to Jackson Square, where almost every parcel has been aggressively developed.
As development creates an almost entirely different Roxbury, and doing it faster than most of us realize, the delay in moving DOT to Tremont Street may well result in private investors filling DOt’s intended space with the sort of mixed-use creations currently favored throughout the City. Restaurants, retail space, residences, parking, and amenities seem very likely to beiome destination calling cards to the thousands of young, technology and tech-world innovators who are making Boston a city of pioneers. Until not long ago, Cass Boulevard has acted as a sort of border between traditionally residential Boston and the downtown pioneers. That no longer holds. Today the “border” lies a mile further south, along Malcolm X Boulevard.
Roxbury in 2015 is a destination for innovators and their innovations. If in three or four years time policy makers still want to move the DOT to a needy neighborhood, Mattapan would seem a better choice. No neighborhood in the City has been less touched by the “Boston boom” than the 15,000-people village at the terminus of Blue Hill Avenue.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere