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.