Two non-profits take crack at reusing Roslindale Square's decaying brick behemoth


Two non-profit groups are the latest to take a whack at finding uses for the long dormant, increasingly decaying Roslindale Square substation, which lost its purpose decades ago when trolleys stopped running down Washington Street.

Last fall, the BRA, which now owns the building, gave Historic Boston, Inc. and Roslindale Village Main Street a year to come up with a re-use proposal.

The award came three years after the BRA seemed close to selecting a private developer to renovate and reuse the cracked structure that still has original transformer equipment inside. Several years before that, the MBTA awarded the building to a Hyde Park garage owner - then rescinded the sale, before selling the building to the BRA.

The cost of renovations - estimated at $1 million - doomed the proposals before the BRA, all of which were withdrawn. Among the ideas: Turning the substation into a restaurant.

Historic Boston and Roslindale Village Main Street will try to come up with proposals that can preserve the historic 1911 structure without requiring the entire $1-million rehab that would be needed to use the entire building for new purposes, according to Adam Rogoff, chair of the Substation Redevelopment Committee.

HBI and Roslindale Village Main Street have unique access to resources that private developers do not and hope to put together a proposal that will preserve the substation and provide use to the Roslindale community, he said.

The Roslindale substation, was built in 1911 to convert current from a South Boston power plant into a form the trolleys that once ran past it can use. Even today, you can see a manhole cover in the sidewalk outside stamped with the initials of the Boston Elevated Railway Co.:

Manhole cover


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Looks cool

Wow. Love the exterior. How are they gonna break that up? How many floors are inside - one, two, three? How many doors will it need? How many windows? That's a lot of space to work with.

I guess the BRA is happy with what they're trying to do over at the Eustis St Fire Station. Good for them.

List of current and past projects:

Ground floor only. At a

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Ground floor only. At a million dollars to get to usable level, the thing is a big white elephant. I'm all for saving old buildings, but sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.

Transformers - More than meets the eye

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I wonder if part of the one million dollars is doing something about the old transformers or if that isn't even factored in?

They're typically hard to move due to size and mass. And full of nasty stuff that makes dumping them difficult.
You can't just toss them anywhere as they are typically full of all kinds of PCBs.

I think you're right

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Now throw in the cracked walls (into which the BRA or somebody has just been squeezing caulk - lots and lots of caulk) and roof and pigeon guano and you've got yourself an interesting little project.

hey now

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A whole lotta caulk in your crack always makes things interesting! But as far as pigeon guano goes, that's just sick.

(And might I add glibly that as far as communities go, the BRA has been doing that for years.)

I thought generators were out already

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That's what the linked 2008 Gazette article above claims:

A big difference today is that the MBTA cleaned up all the pollution and removed all of the old equipment. The inside of the substation now is just a giant single room with a 35-foot ceiling and a bare floor. There is also a usable basement space that is just as clean.

And seriously folks, anyone who thinks a million dollars is a large amount of money when talking about the development/renovation of a lot/bldg of this size, is still stuck in the 1970s. My single family home in Rosi has a insurance replacement value of almost a third of a million, and it sits on a lot about one-quarter the size.

Building is cleaned out

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You are right- the building is clean. Unlike the massive amounts of pigeon guano found up Washington Street at the Egleston Square sub station a few years back, the Roslindale substation was thoroughly cleaned out. The generators and other equipment (that were also found at the Egleston Square building years ago) have also been taken away. What's left is a very large space and a useable basement space that is more like a ground floor, as it has access to natural light.

It's always a shame to pull

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It's always a shame to pull down an old brick building, but it would be worth it to get rid of that hideous mural on the side. It's from that 'give the grade school kids some primary colors' school of street murals - always a stain on the public space.

Rozzie Station

To many swings and misses at the facts.
That mural was a gift to the people of Roslindale.
Take the time to read the dedication.
It may have to go, but don't belittle it's meaning
to many of the people who worked hard to put it there.

Green building

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Not to mention the fact that it's greener / more environmentally responsible to re-use existing construction than tear down and build new.

This has been a topic of conversation for so long - I look forward to something happening one of these days...

make me into a church...

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Is it me or does this building scream "make me into a church". I'm not for more churches, but the design of the building reminds me of some less extravagant church? Just put a cross above the top of highest point on the front, and replace those big boarded up windows with stained glass windows and you have a basic church.

It would make a great church. The upper vaulted room would be for services, and the basement can be a multipurpose room (think coffee hour after service) and offices.

If not a church, this would make a great community center or small club or venue of sorts. (just because of the vaulted ceiling would be excellent for stage/club lighting).

I just hate to see it turn into yet another restaurant that would change the interior or exterior too much. A restaurant is going to have to make mega upgrades to have all the ventilation for kitchens. It will ruin the exterior (think roof). Plus they would have to make sure it can *hold* the ventilation system (think weight load). And don't forget you'll need A/C for the dining room(s) and bar(s).

Yes the same could be said for a club or convert venue, or even a church, but it would be significantly less HVAC stuff on the roof. Of course everything can be done if you have a big enough bill fold.

(I only speak from experience with a managing a similar project building out pro kitchens in an office building..ugh)

The other problem is noise, I've been to the Liberty Hotel, and you can hear a conversations from across the room because of the vaulted room. It would take a ton of fabrics to muffle the sound (verses a church or a club, you *want* that acoustical experience of being heard everywhere). The only way would be to divide up that great big space, and that would be horrible if that happened.

Spaces like these make awesome clubs

Spaces like these make awesome clubs. It's very common all over the world. There's one in Germany that is in an old substation and now it's one of the most exclusive clubs in the entire country.

winter farmer's market

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I personally like the idea of it becoming a winter farmer's market/gardening center, and/or a "community kitchen." the farmer's market is already a huge draw from the surrounding communities, and having something unique that will bring people to the square beyond just saturdays in the summer would be great for the neighborhood.

also - if someone could convince the funeral home to move maybe a block down cummins then maybe something that would generate more evening activity could go in that space. I understand that they provide an important service to the neighborhood, but it's a prominent location on the square and coupled with the vacant sub station really discourages any street life - especially after dark when we could really use more people out and about around adam's park to make it feel a little safer.