Former T substation might be renovated

May 11, 2012
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A former MBTA transit substation, built in 1911 and situated at 4228 Washington St. in Roslindale, might finally be renovated into a year-round farmers’ market and event space after sitting vacant for more than 40 years.

“It would be amazing,” said Stephanie Cave, executive director of Roslindale Village Main Street (RVMS).

RVMS teamed up with the Historic Boston Incorporated, a nonprofit organization that redevelops historic buildings, in November of 2010 for the proposed project. RVMS has been involved with trying to find uses for the building since the early 1990s, according to Cave.

She said the project would activate a vacant building in an ideal location, right across from Adams Park, where there are about 30 public events a year. Cave said hopefully it would complement the businesses in the area and revitalize the district.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), which owns the building, recently gave the two groups “designation authority.” That allows them access to the building, and they are able to bring in architects and structural engineers.

Cave said if it goes according to plan, the project would take several years to be completed and would cost around $3 million to $4 million.

“It’s been a very slow process,” she said.

The Boston Elevated Railway Company first built the substation in 1911 as part of a new power generation system for the city’s trolleys, according to Liz Sherva, co-chair of RVMS’ Substation Task Force.

The railway company built a power plant in South Boston, where coal could be shipped and offloaded, according to Sherva. Electricity from there would be sent throughout the city. The substations would convert the alternating current electricity to direct current, which the trolleys used.

Some of the other substations still stand, while others have been demolished. There is one in Brookline’s Coolidge Corner that the MBTA still owns and operates, while one in Arlington was converted into office space. A substation in JP built as a prototype in 1909 currently houses the Boston Neighborhood Network.

The MBTA decommissioned the Roslindale substation in 1970. The BRA, which bought the building in 2007 for $374,000, has put the building out for bids several times, according to Sherva.

In 2008, the BRA received three different bids that would have turned the building into either a restaurant, nightclub or office space, but BRA rejected all three in 2010.

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