Residents Discuss a Future Plan of the Jamaica Plain and Roxbury Washington Street Corridor

Marie Mercurio, Lara Merido and John Dalzell BRA; staff for the Washington St Planning process

Richard Heath

Marie Mercurio, Lara Merido and John Dalzell, of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, speak about the Washington Street planning process this past Wednesday.

More than 150 people from across Jamaica Plain gathered at English High School Wednesday evening to look into their crystal ball to see what Jamaica Plain – specifically the 257 acres from Forest Hills to Jackson Square would look like in the next five to  10 years.

The workshop was the first one in the process called Plan JP/Rox Washington Street.

“This is long range planning. We got a lot of feedback [since the July 28th open house]; over 850 comments. Our staff looked at every one and out of those we formed four themes: Community resiliency. Keep people living here,” said Marie Mercurio, BRA senior planner for Jamaica Plain. “Land use development. This will define the new zoning that will come out of this plan… Do you want to keep industrial zones? Do you want a mix of light industry and residential? Mobility. How do we get around the neighborhood? Walking, bikes, vehicles, the T. And finally the public realm — sidewalks, street trees, playgrounds.”

Lara Merido, deputy director of planning for the BRA said, “This is really a mayoral inititiative. It’s not only planning, but what’s feasible. What can we implement?”

Mercurio introduced the 25-person advisory group whom she said, “…was there to help us. To guide us over the next 6 months.”

The finalized plan and recommendations are scheduled to be ready at the April 2017 community meeting. Then the rezoning phase begins. Added Mercurio, “…for the next three months we hope to have that completed by late spring early summer 2016. The plan will inform this new zoning.”

BRA senior architect John Dalzell gave the guidelines for the meeting. Everyone who signed in was given a table number to discuss the process at eight  tables. The four themes were discussed for 20 minutes each. The outcomes were used as priorities to guide the process for the next six months.

For the next hour energy, enthusiasm and excitement bubbled throughout the room as ideas flowed and concerns were expressed. Solutions were added to complaints. People gestured at the table maps; pointed to that street corner or the light industrial zone. Each table then reported the consensus of important values.

Far and away the most important issue was affordable housing.

The second most significant value that emerged was summed up by one table — keep Jamaica Plain weird.

Many people at almost every table expressed the desire to preserve the identity of Jamaica Plain by respecting the character, culture and buildings already present.

One table suggested any new development should maintain the existing height and scale of the three-family housing stock that dominates the streetscape of Jamaica Plain.

Members from Affordable Housing Egleston were at the workshop, but declined to participate in any discussion.  Instead they circulated a sheet to enlist people for “our own community meeting to get more depth on the issues of affordable housing community control, and good jobs.”

A coalition of local organizations has also formed for a similar purpose called the Washington/Columbus Corridor Coalition that is “…working to shape a community based approach to planning and development in the Washington Street/Columbus Ave corridor from Forest Hills to Jackson Square.”  This coalition consists of Egleston Youth, Egleston Square YMCA, Egleston Square Main Streets, City Life/ Vida Urbana, Urban edge and Jamaica Plain NDC.  Two of these groups are included in the AG, Urban Edge and JPNDC.

Plan JPRox Washington Street workshops will meet monthly —  except for December –through April 2016.  The next workshop will be in October and devoted to the first theme Community Resiliancy and Sustainability.

Click here for more information on the Jamaica Plain/Roxbury Washington Street Corridor area.

Washington St Corridor Planning Area boundaries .Land use map 31 % is residential 35% tax exempt.

Boston Redevelopment Authority

Washington Street Corridor Planning Area boundaries: The land use map is 31% residential and 35% tax-exempt.

Advisory Group member Leslie Bos leads a table discussion.

Richard Heath

Advisory Group member Leslie Bos leads a table discussion.

Maria Mercurio helps the discussion at table 8 AG member Bill Reylt takes notes.

Richard Heath

Maria Mercurio during the discussion while AG member Bill Reylt takes notes. Jesse Zimmerer from state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, D-Boston, top left in brown sweater, also participated.

Spirited discussion at table 6. AG member Ann Barrett ( R) listens

Richard Heath

There was spirited discussion throughout tables.

Egleston Square Main Streets director Luis Cotto makes a point at table 1" "Just what does affordable mean?"

Richard Heath

Egleston Square Main Streets Director Luis Cotto asked, “Just what does affordable mean?”

Marking the priorities

DSCN3291

BRA senior architect John Dalzell talks over a point at table 3. (Far R ) Kyle Smith Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council member.

Richard Heath

BRA senior architect John Dalzell speaks during one of the table discussion, while Kyle Smith, far right, Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council member, listens.

AG member Jeff Goodman reports out for table 1

Richard Heath

AG member Jeff Goodman recapped what was discussed at the table he participated in.

  • Hugo_JP

    I find it funny that Affordable Housing Eqleston comes to the workshop but then declines to participate. Plan JP/Rox IS the community forum for getting input from all interested parties but I get the impression they just want to claim victim status and decline to participate. Sad.

    • Sally

      Completely. It’s a pretty back-asswards way to get your message across–claim to represent “the community” then refuse to engage with…er, the community. It makes me wish that some older, more experienced community organizer types could come in and school these kids in communication, coalition-building, actual engagement, etc. because right now they’re just digging themselves into a hole. You can’t accomplish anything if you only want to talk amongst yourselves.

    • Luis Edgardo Cotto

      I don’t want to say that Richard is wrong because maybe he spoke to one person from Affordable Egleston who did not participate. We did have a couple members of Affordable Egleston participate at our table.

      • Sally

        They appeared to me to be not participating–showed up very late then either clustered together in their own group or just walking around the tables. And from their statement/flyers it sounds as if they’re really more interested in trying to spearhead their own discussion rather than engage. I’d really like to see that change.

  • Monster

    So there is huge interest in “more affordable housing,” but absolutely no interest in mixed-income developments. I think history has shown that building large public housing complexes, which thereby create zones of high-density poverty and ghettoization, is a terrifically bad idea, and yet that seems to be what the community wants.

    • Sue

      That was not my impression: I think the neighborhood does prefer mixed income developments. Everyone I talked to..in and out of the meeting…prefers that affordable units be integrated, not isolated.

      • Monster

        I was referencing the votes on the sticker chart.

        • Sally

          Each table had a chart so that’s just one of many. It’s a tricky thing to quantify–every table seemed to want “more affordable housing” but of course that means different things to different people. No one was saying specifically “we want a new housing project” or “we want elderly housing.” And of course a lot of people claimed to want both more affordable housing AND for the housing stock to stay the same–ie triple deckers, etc.

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