South Bay Plan Could Transform the Suburban Outpost into a New Neighborhood

A walkable neighborhood at South Bay could augment the sprawling shopping plaza's dated design.

Planned development at South Bay Center via Edens.

Planned development at South Bay Center via Edens.

You know the South Bay Center.

It’s that oddly suburban outpost right off the Southeast Expressway that occupies a chunk of the Newmarket section of Dorchester. It’s lagoons of parking are bordered by big box chains like Target, Best Buy, Office Max, and more regional stores like a Super Stop and Shop. It’s a pedestrian wasteland that screams 1996.

With it’s close proximity to the Andrew Square Red Line station and the Newmarket stop on the Fairmount Line, the site that was once home to massive Sears warehouse is now a major missed opportunity for transit oriented development.

If the owner of the property has its way though that could change in the not too distant future.

Edens, a South Carolina-based developer, wants to build nearly 10 acres of mixed use development on the site. The company has submitted plans to the Boston Redevelopment Authority to turn 9.9 acres at the site into 475 apartments (61 of which will be affordable), a 130-room boutique hotel, a 12-screen cinema, 113,000 square feet of retail space and, of course, 1,066 mostly garaged parking spaces that will be “tucked away from view in structures.” The project is spread across five separate buildings.

In its filing Edens said their project will be “a human-scaled, mixed-use development, acting as a neighborhood center” in Dorchester. To further its focus on creating a “human-scaled” pedestrian oriented neighborhood, Edens said in their filing that they will improve access to the Andrew Red Line Station and Newmarket Commuter Rail Station on the outskirts of the South Bay Center. The Fairmount Line is in line to be converted to a higher frequency MetroNorth-style train in the not too distant future, making it a more appealing transportation option than the current hourly commuter rail trains.

The development is similar to new urbanist projects that in Somerville’s Assembly Square, Dedham’s Legacy Place, and at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

The project would leave much of the current South Bay Center intact as it the new development is focused in the southwestern corner of the property, an area that already has something of a traditional grip pattern but is populated by a mix of out of use commercial and aging industrial buildings. It’s an area that turns into a dumping ground for snow in the winter.

The filing includes lofty language about the 9.9 acre development serving as a catalyst for change in the Newmarket section of Dorchester.

“The social, cultural, and economic activity engendered by the project can provide an impetus for positive change to abutting, antiquated commercial and industrial properties, helping to provide a bright future for Dorchester and the City of Boston,” said Edens in their filing.

Edends hopes to break ground on the project sometime next year.