Dorchester is getting a brand new complex with plenty of space for housing and businesses, but there are some concerns about how the upcoming buildings will affect the community already living in the area.
Last month, Accordia Partners LLC submitted plans to Boston city officials to begin the construction of the Dorchester Bay City complex at Columbia Point, stating the project will offer an opportunity for diversity in the community and focus on inclusion.
The inclusion of new outdoor and retail spaces is designed to offer a variety of amenities and business opportunities to the Dorchester community and new residents. Once constructed, the Dorchester Bay City complex will “become a dynamic hub for all Bostonians,” said Accordia in the proposal.
With so much added space and opportunities for Bostonians to explore and an emphasis on diversity, the project might seem a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Located only a few miles from the Boston campus at the University of Massachusetts, Dorchester Bay City will offer new restaurants and places for community gatherings for students and the community alike to enjoy.
With a proposed 1,740 residential units, 155,000 square feet of space for restaurants and retail and approximately 4 million square feet of space for offices and research areas, the new Dorchester Bay City has the potential to bring a significant increase of jobs to the area. But despite community proponents of the new developments, some have pushed back against the plans.
Those against the plan include students at UMass Boston. According to the UMass Media, some feel left out of the decision-making process that led to Accordia’s use of the land in the first place. Accordia obtained the space for the Dorchester City Bay thanks to UMass’s decision to lease the land to Accordia after having purchased it in 2010. The $235 million lease made to the company in 2019 will provide income to UMass.
Even though the project and lease financially benefit the school and offer spaces for the community in the forms of housing and offices, some UMass students worry the new structures will contribute to Dorchester’s gentrification instead of focusing on inclusion.
“This project will not benefit UMass Boston as we were originally told, and intentions show it never has and never will benefit our community,” UMass Boston Undergraduate Student Government Vice President Jaely Pereira wrote in an email to her university’s student newspaper.
Pereira wrote she worries the new housing units will raise real estate prices in the area, hurting lower-income families in Dorchester and forcing them to move elsewhere.
Pereira’s concerns come after the National Community Reinforcement Coalition announced in July that Boston was the third most “intensely gentrified” city in the United States behind San Francisco and Denver, respectively.
The report compares changes in median home values, household incomes and residents’ college education to determine the level of gentrification in each city.
In an effort to combat the gentrification occurring in Boston, the City established the Inclusionary Development Policy in 2000. The policy was designed to incorporate affordable housing for residents. As of 2000, every new complex with 10 or more units must reserve at least 13% of them for income-restricted housing. The new Dorchester Bay City will comply with the policy.
“Every component of the project has been designed to feed into a series of public benefits that reflect the feedback we heard from the community,” said Richard Galvin, co-CEO of Accordia. Galvin said he comments from Boston residents have convinced him the new project will help Dorchester residents.
Rosemary Powers, who lives in Dorchester’s Savin Hill and is the current president of Cristo Rey High School, said in an interview with WBUR she agrees the complex will help out the community.
“Another thing to pay close attention to is the impact on Dorchester’s low-income communities, and the ability for our community to benefit from the development through workforce training, or other small business development opportunities,” Powers said.
Unlike Pereira, Powers said she believes Dorchester Bay City will alleviate issues with gentrification in Boston. The focus on low-income housing for the community might offer more opportunities for lower-income families who need affordable housing, she said.
The BPDA and UMass Boston held meetings in September to address community concerns about the project with several students expressing approval of the new complex over social media, according to UMass Media.
With the financial benefits of UMass’s decision to lease the land, it’s no surprise some students are excited for the changes. UMass claims the money from the deal will help it complete much-needed renovations and even contribute to the construction of a new nursing school facility.
Despite the pressing question of whether the Dorchester Bay City complex will make a difference in Boston’s high level of gentrification, it’s clear the developments will help UMass students for years to come.
In an email to students, UMass Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco wrote, “These funds will help to continue UMass Boston’s growth and service to the city as Boston’s public research university.”