Plans Moving Forward for Development of Roxbury’s Nubian Square
Posted By: Boston City Properties
Big plans are in the works for Nubian Square, which many Bostonians will remember better as Dudley Square. The name was officially changed only last year to one that pays homage to the Nubian Empire of Ancient Egypt – and now it appears that various groups are finally vying to bring new development to the once-bustling district.
To look at it now, it is hard to believe that Nubian Square was once such a bustling commercial corridor that it was regularly referred to as the city’s “other downtown.” Indeed, Dudley Square was once one of the largest economic centers in all of New England, dwarfed only by downtown Boston. For many years, the spot hosted a vibrant array of businesses, including banks, bowling alleys, movie theaters and department stores. After World War II, people from around the country and world flocked to the neighborhood, putting these and other services in strong demand.
Plans to redevelop the area were tossed around starting in the 1990s and were revived again in the mid-2010s. Redevelopment started in earnest when Boston Public Schools’ headquarters assumed the former Ferdinand furniture building site. A few years before that, the Boston Police Department headquarters relocated a few blocks to the west. Earlier this month, a major renovation of the Boston Public Library on Dudley Street was also completed.
That leads us to today and to what appears to be a mad dash by numerous developers to redevelop many plots of land that remain vacant in Nubian Square. A few examples include:
- There is a lone proposal being considered by the Boston Planning and Development Agency for the Blair Lot, the parking lot of the former Blair’s Foodland, undeveloped since 1985. The proposal in question, Nubian Square Ascends, will consist of a 48,000-square-foot artisan marketplace, 135,000 square feet of office space and a food hall.
- Also under consideration by the BPDA is the selection of the developer for the 11,000-square-foot Nawn Factory site, a 130-year-old brick building adjacent to the Blair Lot. One bidder, Historic Boston Inc., proposes a community wellness center while the other, art @ the Nawn Factory, proposes a rehearsal studio.
- Finally, there are three proposals for the redevelopment of Parcel 8 at the north end of the square. NUBA LLC’s proposal includes 100+ units, with two-thirds of them being earmarked for affordable housing; 10,000 square feet of commercial space; and a satellite museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists. The proposal by Nu Gateway, a minority-led group, includes a 15-story structure with 103 units – 73 of them will be affordable housing – along with a public market and an arts center. Finally, Janey Construction and New Urban Collaborative have proposed what would be the only mass-timber build in Boston. It would include 130 rental units, 60,000 square feet of retail space, an 8,000-square-foot plaza, a Museum of African American History and the home of King Boston, a non-profit that is planning the memorial for one-time Boston resident Martin Luther King, Jr.
By the end of the year, we should know the fate of at least two of the sites at Nubian Square. As for when these projects will be completed, they had pre-COVID completion dates ranging from 2024 to 2025; with the pandemic now affecting things, those dates could be pushed out a bit.