Earlier last month, a fifth grader from Dorchester named Fatoumata visited my office. She told me about her favorite types of ice cream, her favorite subjects in school, and her plans to go to college, become a human rights lawyer, and eventually run for U.S. Senate. She’s got big goals for her future, and I have every confidence that she will achieve her dreams. Fatoumata also told me about her support system. Her family loves her, she’s got great teachers at the Dever Elementary School, and she also has a mentor named Claire, a Boston College student who meets with Fatoumata every week. Mentorship can be an incredible resource for kids like Fatoumata.
February is Black History Month and, in Boston, we have a full series of events planned to celebrate the achievements of Black Bostonians -- the women and men, seniors and students, veterans and clergy, business owners and activists who have been at the heart of our city’s progress and success since the beginning. Honoring this history and progress is something we must do every day, all year round. That’s why Boston is helping to lead a national movement to recognize that Black history is #MoreThanAMonth. This year, Black History Month kicks off a year-round celebration, in partnership with Boston’s Black community, that we are calling a Year of Black Excellence. Black Excellence events will reach all ages and offer a range of activities including arts, sports, history, culture, job resources, and community programming.
Thanks to architects Ed Forte, Michael Epp, and Gert Thorn for their ongoing diligence regarding Chase Bank’s design downgrade of 701 Centre St. without communication with the community, in spite of being located in the midst of a Neighborhood Design Overlay District. This is not the first time community input has “slipped through the cracks” or been waived away for businesses and developers and will not be the last, without community vigilance. As abutters to both 701 Centre and the recently built, oversized condo building at 11 Burroughs St., we are disappointed that regulations pertaining to these projects were overlooked and abutters were not notified of these neighborhood changes. When we made renovations to our house, we were obliged to delay construction for over two weeks until all 80 of our abutters had the opportunity to weigh in on the new design.
We are licensed architects practicing for over 30 years each, long-standing members of the Jamaica Plain community, and were chairpersons or members of the former Jamaica Plain Centre/South Main Street's Design Committee. We are writing to express our disappointment, dismay and disbelief over the recent storefront alterations at 701 Centre Street (former Bukhara, now to be Chase Bank) and to raise concerns over what we perceive to be a breakdown in permitting processes and architectural design review in our neighborhood. As volunteers to the former JPCSMS Design Committee, we were privileged to lead and work with a team of enthusiastic community volunteers who cared about design, were curious about understanding what makes "good" design versus "bad," and were always looking for ways to translate that to the district streetscape. Our design committee always sought to work in close coordination with the city, other community groups and the BPDA to encourage not only adherence to Main Streets design guidelines, but to design guidelines embedded in the city of Boston Zoning Code (many of which are the same, or are generally just good practice). Typically, projects requiring design review under zoning that occurred in the district would be referred to our committee for review, and we would be asked to review any project seeking Main Streets funding in the district.
Boston has always been known as a strong city. A lot of our strength comes from our older residents, who represent a broad diversity of cultures and backgrounds, and who helped to make our city what it is today. That’s why we recently changed the name of the Elderly Commission to the Age Strong Commission. It better reflects the work we do, and the strong Bostonians we serve. We also launched the city’s first-ever Age Strong public awareness campaign.