Neighbors hail new mixed-use VietAID building on Bowdoin

September 23, 2022 : Dorchester Reporter, by Seth Daniel

After several years of false starts, the Bowdoin-Geneva community gathered on Monday morning to celebrate the successful development and opening of a new mixed-use building development at the corner of Bowdoin and Topliff streets that includes 41 units of affordable housing and a 6,000-squarefoot retail space that will be occupied by the Dorchester Food Co-op by early next year.

VietAID Board Chair Kim Thai acted as the host of the ribbon cutting. Neighbors who have long labored to find a new use for the prominent site praised city government and VietAID Development for finally coming up with a solution. Davida Andleman, a longtime civic activist, said prior uses at the intersection— including a gas station and two auto body shops— gave way to vacant lots, which neighbors then hoped would house a community center.

“Unfortunately, our neighborhood lost out on that, but not to worry, time moved on and the city foreclosed on the gas station and VietAID became interested in the land,” she said. “They wanted to develop residential units with commercial space, which we needed…It all kind of worked out.”

Sheila Dillon, chief of the Mayor’s Office of Housing (MOH), said the current project nearly ended in failure as well.

“There were many days when many of us thought this day would never happen,” she said. “There were so many fits and starts to this project.”

She also noted that the new deal activates a very important corner, and will bring a good amount of foot traffic when the Dorchester Food Co-op opens next year.

“This will be more than a store; it’s a place for bringing community together,” said Marcos Beleche, president of the Co-op board, which counts 1,389 people as owner-members. “We’re more determined than ever.”

The project was built on two lots of land, one that was owned by the city and the other that had been purchased by Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation (EDC) several years ago for a proposed project that didn’t come to fruition.

The state’s MassDevelopment office also helped with funding the environmental clean-up of the site, as it was listed as a state Brownfield site before the latest moves on the property.