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Fate of MBTA substation remains up in the air

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Fate of MBTA substation remains up in the air after a near-resolution

By Kim Foley MacKinnon, Globe Correspondent, 2/22/2004

Boston Globe article

The saga of the empty MBTA substation in the heart of Roslindale Village seems destined to drag on indefinitely.

The large red brick building, its use made obsolete decades ago when buses replaced trolleys, has sat empty since the 1970s. After the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority finally resolved to sell it at auction in 2002, Elias Akiki, a Hyde Park auto body shop owner, came up with the winning bid at $212,000 early last year.

Almost immediately, community outcry forced the T to look more closely at the buyer, who neighborhood advocates insisted had no viable plan. The T asked Akiki to come up with development permits and plans for its use. He responded by taking the T to court for breach of contract. He lost his case on Jan. 26, with 30 days to appeal the decision.

He vowed to ''pursue it to the end." His lawyer, Paul F. Cavanaugh, said he plans to appeal.

''The whole process is unfair," said Akiki, who says he met all requirements for the auction. ''We had a contract to complete a contract [at auction]. I did as much as I could."

But the MBTA contended, and the court agreed, that there was no purchase-and-sale agreement and therefore, no contract. Joe Pesaturo, T spokesman, said the T is waiting to see if Akiki appeals before it makes any plans.

''If there's no appeal, we'll have a meeting with the BRA [boston Redevelopment Authority]," said Pesaturo. ''If there is an appeal, we're back to a wait-and-see mode."

Roslindale Village Main Streets president Steve Gag says the neighborhood is ''very concerned" with what happens to the building. ''We want to work with the MBTA to design a plan," he said. ''We want to see it goes to a developer that has the capacity to develop it, so it can become a showpiece."

The wish list is for a mixed-use space, with retail stores, restaurants, cultural amenities, and maybe housing, said Gag.

Like the T, the neighborhood will have to wait and see what happens.

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