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In the course of our work to rehabilitate the Roslindale Substation, we learned that the F.J. Higgins Funeral Home property next door would be put up for sale. The business intends to operate at a new location.

Graciously, the Higgins family has granted Roslindale Village Main Street and our nonprofit development partner, Historic Boston Incorporated, an opportunity to purchase their property so that we can advance our vision of bringing the Substation – and this stretch of Washington Street – to life.

If put up for sale on the open real estate market, the site of the funeral home could very likely attract the interest of a developer who does not share our vision of creating a walkable, pedestrian-friendly business district, someone who might try to install a drive-thru business on Washington Street, or a parking lot for some other business. Because of the community’s vocal reaction to the Domino’s Pizza that was proposed on the same block, we feel duty-bound to try to bring about an outcome that will add more value to our business district.

Working with the Peregrine Group, a development company with a terrific track record in urban infill projects of this scale, and Historic Boston Incorporated, a nonprofit with decades of experience revitalizing and preserving historic buildings in Boston, our plan is to convert the vacant Substation to 7,500 square feet of retail space, including a restaurant and coffee bar and a market for fresh produce. This is a natural choice for Roslindale. It builds upon our highly successful Farmers’ Market, a weekly event that attracts thousands of customers to our district to patronize at our many small businesses. As part of this project, we intend to propose a new building for the site of the funeral home that would hold 40 units of housing, with parking underneath for up to 40 cars. Six of the units would be affordable. The height of the building would be slightly lower than the Substation.

All along, our plan has been to identify a new use for the Substation that 1) preserves the building’s historic character, 2) makes the building accessible to the public to use and enjoy, and 3) is financially self-supporting on an operational basis after construction work is completed.

This project is consistent with what residents agreed to with the final master plan and updated zoning code in 2008, which focused on new construction and future population growth towards Roslindale Square, encouraging ongoing pedestrian-oriented revitalization through mixed use residential/commercial zoning and by relaxing parking requirements to facilitate transit-oriented development.

What do you think of this idea? Is this a risk worth taking? We are eager to hear your feedback and intend to hold a community meeting in mid January to share more details. Before the community meeting, RVMS will be hosting smaller and less formal gatherings with our volunteer Substation committee members at our office at 2 Corinth Street to discuss the proposal, answer your questions and gather your ideas. Drop-in “office hours” will be held on December 20th, January 8th and 10th from 5:30 to 7:30 PM and on January 5th from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM. As more formal plans become available the Boston Redevelopment Authority will be looking to the community for its consideration in the permitting process.

We believe that a successful project, done well, would really revitalize this central block of Washington Street in Roslindale. As a demonstration of the level of interest in Roslindale as a place to live, please review the article on our development concept in today’s Boston Globe (Click here).

These are some renderings of the proposed substation redevelopment made by The Peregrine Group, Inc: