Padanaram Blues


A perpetual issue in coastal Padanaram Village in South Dartmouth has concerned the development of a Bridge Street property owned by Kevin Santos. This property in the heart of Padanaram has sat undeveloped for about six years, and residents have criticized Mr. Santos for the empty buildings many deem an “eyesore.” Recently, the property was put on the market for $1.9 million.

Santos purchased the property in 2006 with plans for a market, restaurant, and condos. He did, however, meet some barriers in his efforts to develop the property. For example, Santos had to wait until zoning in the Village changed and off-street parking became more relaxed. Yet even after these changes, Santos did not develop the property or follow through with his plans.

“As a Select Board member and a resident of the surrounding community, this makes me unhappy,” said Dartmouth Select Board member Lara Stone. “I have encouraged Mr. Santos to sell for some time, so that another business owner or consortium of owners could pursue alternate designs.”

Before Santos purchased the property, there was the Village Market and the Village Kitchen. When I was younger, I recall often going to the Village Kitchen for breakfast with my family. The diner was always crowded, as was the rest of the Village. In fact, Padanaram is the very reason my parents moved to Dartmouth. They fell in love with the ambiance of the Village, with its unique restaurants, cafés, shops and overall sense of community.

If you walk through the Village today, the sidewalks are mostly empty and many of the stores are now real estate offices. Aside from a few gems, like the Beach Plum Cafe and a handful of retail shops, the Village emits a feeling of emptiness. Santos’ undeveloped property does not help in the matter.

Naval architect Chris Melo has an office neighboring Santos’ property. Having grown up in Dartmouth, Mr. Melo knows the area well and has a few ideas about the property’s impact on Padanaram. “It hasn’t affected me, but more the community,” said Melo. “I think its hurting foot traffic not to have the businesses we used to have.”

With Santos putting the property up for sale in January, the question now is what will become of it. “I have heard from his attorney that there are many interested buyers, but it has not sold yet,” said Stone. “Of course I think it would be wonderful if it sold quickly and a new plan could be implemented for developing the site.”

Dartmouth residents have varying opinions about what the future holds for this empty lot. “I think we need some sort of a grocery store,” said Melo. “Boat traffic doesn’t stop here because there is no grocery store.”

“I’d love to see a specialty market go into the Village,” said Stone “I think this would be an anchor institution but I can also see that a bookstore, toy store, breakfast, coffee shop, [or] additional retail would add to the downtown marine destination.”