Mattapan Square is also a gateway to Boston

To the Editor:

Last month the Massachusetts Department of Transportation issued a request for proposals to develop Parcel 25, an open tract roughly bounded by Kneeland Street, Chinatown, the Leather District and Fort Point Channel. The RFP states that the project “offers the potential to redevelop the southern gateway into the City of Boston” as one approaches the city’s downtown via the Southeast Expressway. It could offer striking eye-appeal, similar to the Zakim Bridge on the northern side. According to a January 2nd Boston Globe article, the Boston Redevelopment Authority is a collaborator in planning the development.

While it’s a fine idea to spruce up this approach into Boston, there is another major gateway into the city from points south that deserves attention. Mattapan Square is traversed by thousands of commuters daily via Blue Hill Avenue, a broad, multi-lane boulevard. The Square would be a much more lucrative generator of revenue if only there were more attractive businesses to induce drivers to stop.

In interviews I conducted last year for the Mattapan United coalition, local residents and people who work in Mattapan consistently advocated for a nicer mix of restaurants, cafes, markets and shops along with pleasant landscaping and an upgrade to the ugly security grates on many storefronts.

Mattapan Square offers Mayor Menino a superb opportunity to burnish his strong record on neighborhood improvement. A beautiful new Mattapan Community Health Center is nearing completion on one edge of the Square. It can be a springboard to redevelopment in tandem with the new Mattapan Square Main Streets program, which took 10 long years for local leaders to secure. I hope that city and state agencies and our elected officials will provide sufficient resources and encouragement to enable busy Mattapan Square to realize its full long-term potential as a dining and shopping magnet on the city’s southern border.

Jeff Stone