Community members weighed in with their concerns about, and hopes for, the development of the former Bayside Expo property at civic-group-sponsored “Citizens Connect to Bayside” event last Saturday at the Boston Teachers Union hall in Dorchester.
The meeting was the first of two scheduled to provide community feedback to the developer, Accordia Partners, as it moves to rehabilitate the 20-acre site on Columbia Point.
The focus of the meeting was on identifying problems, concerns, and needs of the community necessary for creating a “community-based vision.” The event was broken into two breakout sessions in which neighbors were asked to plan their own development maps for the site and speak up about what they see as the best way to develop the property.
There was in the end a sort-of consensus about neighborhood concerns: housing affordability, open space, climate resilience, diversity, and traffic.
At the follow-up meeting, set for Nov. 16, Accordia will present a final “community vision,” which, it said, will “incorporate as many concerns and community comments as possible.”
Richard Galvin, co-president and CEO of Accordia, provided attendees with an overview of the current project site, as well as the constraints related to its development. And he shared what he hoped would be accomplished by the visioning sessions.
“We wanted to have these meetings before we start the Article 80 process, which will actually begin sometime in February,” he said. “Our goal is to have an overall plan that is inclusive, innovative, and that drives education and opportunity.”
Michael Joroff, senior principal of JVA LLC, a global planning and urban management consultancy, asked attendees at each breakout table to outline their general ideas for the site and give some feedback on what makes a good neighborhood.
“I think we see a lot of developments that don’t fit in Boston,” he said. “We want something that fits and brings the quality of what you all think is a neighborhood.”
Said Desmond Rohan, president of Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association and moderator of the session: “We did this type of planning before with South Bay. I would say the developers adopted about 75 to 80 percent of the design ideas that we discussed for that space. We are hoping for a similar outcome here.”
Deirdre Murphy from Savin Hill said that her table would like to see community space, a central park or green area for community events to draw neighbors into the space. Another group proposed both indoor and outdoor open spaces; a gym, library or even a civic hall, although their biggest concern was transportation and moving people through the area.
Nora Luz, a UMass Boston student and Boston resident, said that her team wanted to see affordability, demographic diversity, open space, and “climate-proofing” worked into the project.
“This is a critical juncture in sea level rise. In ten years, the water is coming through. If we won’t address the water, there is no point to living here,” said community resident Amanda Sanders. “We also need to include affordable housing. The cost of living in Boston is astronomical.”
Said Bruce Shatswell of Sydney Street: “Whatever is built in all of these developments needs to address the ability of people and families to stay where they are. You can’t have a neighborhood unless there’s some continuity.”
State Rep. David Biele, of South Boston, saying that the Bayside project would be “transformative,” thanked the community for participating in its early stages. “I’d like to thank UMass for mandating in their RFP that the developer have an Article 80 process,” said District 3 Councillor Frank Baker.
Paul Nutting, a Savin Hill resident, provided an overview of the 2011 Columbia Point Master Plan, which he and other residents worked with the Boston Redevelopment Authority to complete.
“Even though we’re all in this room to talk about this specific site, as neighbors we really have to keep our eye on the ball for everything that’s going on around here. There are several other very large development projects around Columbia Point,” he said.
“We really need to push our city and state to get all of these people talking together’ we can’t look at all of these things one by one,” he added.
The 2011 document, developed under former Mayor Thomas Menino, laid out broad themes for the area, but nothing was specifically encoded into zoning.
“One of the major focuses of the Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association is creating a way for the people who live in the north Sydney Street [west of JFK/UMass Station] to get over to the waterfront,” Nutting said.
The second “Citizens Connect to Bayside” meeting will be held on Sat., Nov. 15 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the BTU’s Carson Place Hall, 180 Mt. Vernon St., Dorchester. For more information, see Facebook page or email CitizensConnectBayside@gmail.com.