Dudley Square: Boston’s up-and-coming development epicenter Update

Geographically, the City of Boston’s center is Dudley Square, a storied, culturally-rich commercial hub with multiple public transit connections located in Roxbury just south of the South End. This month, the City of Boston broke ground on the renovation of the Boston Public Library (BPL)’s Dudley branch, the latest in a series of new development projects to come to the rapidly transforming square. With a light filled, open layout, this $14.7 million, 27,000-square-foot project is expected to positively impact Dudley Square and its’ surroundings, which, with many upcoming new development projects, are likely to see many new residents in the coming years.

Rendering of the renovated Dudley Square Library.

Historically, Dudley Square was a bustling center of commerce, with multiple shops and a large department store, Ferdinand’s, located at its’ center. The Washington Street Elevated train, the precursor to the modern Orange Line, had a station in Dudley Square, prompting multiple generations of Bostonians to come shop there.


An aerial view of the Dudley Square train station and its’ surroundings in 1910.

By the 1970s, with people beginning to move out of the city and into the suburbs and likewise shop at suburban malls as opposed to in the city, Dudley Square began to see a decline, with many stores closing. Urban renewal projects, for instance the planned Inner Belt highway that later became Melnea Cass Boulevard, as well as abandonment and increased demand for vehicle parking resulted in the demolition of multiple buildings throughout Dudley Square, leaving many vacant lots. By 1987, the Washington Street Elevated had ended service, and Dudley Square was left without a rapid transit connection to the rest of Boston.


An aerial view of Dudley Square, centered about the recently completed Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building.

In recent years, Dudley Square’s vacant lots and historic buildings have presented significant development potential. Dudley Square is located minutes from Downtown Boston, with multiple bus connections. The first major modern development to come to Dudley Square was the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building, which was completed in February 2015. The Bolling Building restored the long-vacant landmark Ferdinand’s department store building and constructed a new addition, bringing the headquarters of Boston’s Public Schools, a neighborhood innovation lab and ground-floor retail to the growing square.

The completed Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building.

Work is currently underway on the Melnea Hotel and Residences, a $38 million project transforming a long-vacant, 1.3-acre parcel with a 108-room Marriott Residence Inn hotel, a 50-unit residential rental apartment building and 8,000 square feet of retail. The project is located across from Parcel 10, a 138,000-square-foot mixed-use development. Phase One of Parcel 10, a a 40,000-square-foot Tropical Foods supermarket, has opened, and Phase Two, a 44,000-square-foot residential development that will renovate an existing building, is now underway. Phase Three will construct a 54,000-square-foot office and retail building.

The Melnea Hotel and Residences.

Across from the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building, longtime property owner Long Bay Management has proposed to construct The Rio Grande, a 25-story tower which would feature 236 residences and 28,282 square feet of commercial space. The Rio Grande would incorporate the facade of a historic bank and would be Roxbury’s tallest building.

Rendering of The Rio Grande.

Just next to the Dudley Square library, which is now being renovated, a four-story condominium building was recently approved at 2451 Washington Street. The building will feature 16 ownership condominium residences including 1, 2 and 3-bedrooms, with seven residences designated affordable.

The recently approved 2451 Washington Street Condominiums.

In the coming years, Dudley Square will likely see many additional development projects. The City of Boston has launched a public planning initiative, PLAN: Dudley Square, to help identify key parcels in and around Dudley Square and engage residents to determine how to best create housing and commercial development in the coming years.

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Key parcels in and around Dudley Square, as identified by PLAN: Dudley Square.

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