Letter: Redevelopment of the Shattuck Campus Urgently Needed

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We are a group of concerned Boston residents and housing, homeless, public health, climate justice, faith-based leaders and activists writing to urge you to support the Commonwealth’s Preliminary Project Proposal for the redevelopment of the Shattuck Campus as presented in April 2021.

When the state conducted a comprehensive planning process in 2019, stakeholders from the surrounding neighborhoods, community groups, greenspace advocates, housing, and health care groups came to consensus on a Vision Plan. The Vision Plan includes behavioral health services, the shelter, and 75-100 units of supportive housing. The Plan also includes integrating the campus with Franklin Park and including components that will be accessible to the community, such as a public restroom, community garden or a child care center. In the six months since the Shattuck Campus Redevelopment was approved by the state, the city’s desperate need for supportive housing has only become more dire.

In this letter, you will find information about the community process, Boston and State public health needs that will be addressed, and the unrealistic and last minute nature of the Arborway Yard proposal.

Background information
1. Franklin Park is 527 acres
2. Shattuck Campus is 13 acres or 2.5% of Franklin Park.
3. The Shattuck Campus is deeded for public health purposes and was transferred to the State in 1949

The opioid epidemic is a public health emergency and the Shattuck campus redevelopment is an urgently needed short and long term solution. In 2020, there were 2,035 confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths and a March 2021 report from the Department of Public health shows this number increasing this year. Demographic data from the State in 2019 shows the largest increase in opioid deaths is of Black men. Most recently, city of Boston authorities estimate about 150 tents in the Mass. and Cass area. Connecting people with supportive housing is a crucial first step for recovery from mental health and substance abuse struggles. Without supportive housing, people end up in the ER or in an inpatient unit, which is worse for them and more costly for the city and state.

Fully dismantling the Shattuck Campus and rebuilding it somewhere else would constitute a negative environmental impact. As climate justice activists who are cognizant of the danger of heat islands and the benefit of increasing Boston’s tree canopy, we understand the desire of some of our fellow Boston residents to return the campus to parkland. However, the 13-acre campus has already been developed. Input from climate activists ensured four of the five principles for the final Shattuck Campus Redevelopment plan reflect environmental impact awareness, including improved access to public transit, bike and pedestrian options; increased green and open space; and alignment with city and state sustainable development goals and strategies.

More community processes will not increase inclusion but will delay urgently needed services. A robust community process has already happened, resulting in a plan that addresses both environmental concerns and the most critical public health needs in the state. The Shattuck Community Advisory Board included representatives from the Emerald Necklace, the neighborhoods surrounding the park , health care sector, housing groups, organizations serving the homeless, people in recovery, in addition to a number of members from City and State agencies and electeds. The initial State and City supportive housing proposal was delayed 12 months to complete a robust Shattuck Campus Planning process to discuss and identify public health needs. Furthermore, the planning will continue with the City of Boston Article 80 process where there will be opportunity for further input and more Community Advisory Board meetings to discuss the proposals submitted.

The proposal by Emerald Necklace Conservancy to site services at Arborway Yard is wholly unrealistic and ignores the years of public community process that led to the current Shattuck Campus Redevelopment Proposal, Plan JP Rox and other state and city commitments for uses at Arborway Yard. In the Shattuck Redevelopment vision plan, the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) anticipated that 600,000 square feet of space would be necessary for both new and existing programming. There is no space at the Arborway Yard for additional proposed uses. The MBTA has already begun the community planning process for a new all electric bus facility - the first in the State for solely Battery Electric Buses - to be located at the Arborway Yard. Moreover, the MBTA has promised to honor the MOU that Mayor Menino signed with the Commonwealth 20 years ago, which stipulates that 8 acres of the Arborway Yard be used for affordable housing and other community needs. The City of Boston has remained consistent in their anticipation that this will occur, first through the Forest Hills Improvement Initiative and then PLAN: JP/Rox. In PLAN: JP/Rox the BPDA estimates that 744 units of housing will be built on the 8+ acres, 372 of which would be affordable (almost 1/3 of the total units and 1/3 of the affordable units in the planning area). In addition to supportive housing, affordable housing is also a dire need in Boston. One should not supplant the other. We need both the supportive housing proposed for the Shattuck Campus and the affordable housing units planned for the Arborway Yard.

Additionally, we have deep reservations about the continued citing of a “Northeastern University Research Team,” which in reality was a student team, overseen by an Emerald Necklace Conservancy Board of Directors member, who were given the task to identify new alternative locations by the ENC itself. They did not consider time nor consult any public health experts in their project.

Mayor Curley designated this piece of land for public health use in 1949 because of the urgent public health needs of that time. Today we have multiple intersecting public health crises; the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, an increase in homelessness, systemic racism, opioid addiction and more. To encourage diverting 13 acres of land that are crucial to the health of so many people would certainly be a loss to the city.

Supporters of this letter and Current Proposal for Shattuck Campus: Organizations 350 MA - Boston Node
Boston Tenant Coalition
City Life / Vida Urbana
Massachusetts Chapter of the National Organization for Women
New England United for Justice
Pine Street Inn
Reclaim Roxbury
South End Forum