If you’re a casual observer of the redevelopment happening at the Ferdinand Building, there’s a good chance that you saw more about it in the media in the last seven days than you have in the previous seven months combined.
On March 27, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) organized an open house for retail bidders to present their visions to the public at the Dudley Branch Library. Although the BRA stated that the open house would have no impact on the decision of the selection committee, roughly half of the 22 bidders appeared to talk to visitors.
But, it wasn’t until the following Monday that conversation about the project and its impact really became the talk of the town. First, there was an article explaining (as well as feeding off the usual stereotypes and furthering stigma) that Dudley Square’s comeback was linked to bids submitted by national chains for space at the Ferdinand Building [Boston Globe]. Unfortunately, that article lacked any reference to bids also submitted by local businesses and organizations, including a pair of complementary bids by Discover Roxbury and Haley House Bakery Café. In response, Discover Roxbury’s board of directors issued a petition asking for public comments and support for our work and our submissions.
By the end of last week, the conversation about the Ferdinand and the bids morphed into a conversation about local vs. national brands, or more specifically, Haley House vs. Starbucks [Boston Globe]. Although the BRA doesn’t have a mechanism to solicit public input, we at Discover Roxbury are excited by the level of public participation being shown via the online petition, on social media, and in conversations that we’re having around the city.
As we all eagerly wait for the BRA to announce the winning bids, we hope you will continue to stay abreast of the ongoing conversation around the redevelopment of Dudley Square and continue to be part of it. The current conversation risks being reduced to a simple binary discussion of the little guys vs. national corporations. Yet, we all know there’s more to the situation than that. Beneath the surface are questions of how new tenants envision civic and community engagement (particularly in a publicly funded municipal building); the degree to which there will be displacement in the wake of so much new development; and the role of the City in shaping the changes in the neighborhood.
If we only had that casino in East Boston. We could place bets on what the answers to those questions might be.
—- Rodney Singleton / Seen From the Hill