Columbia Point, not Widett Circle, should be priority for Team Walsh

Mayor Martin Walsh and his administration have an opportunity to flip their disappointment over the demise of the Boston 2024 bid into a robust, thoughtful, and efficient execution of large-scale redevelopment in Boston.

But rather than focus first on Widett Circle – as indicated will be the case by the Boston Globe and the mayor himself in an op-ed penned for the newspaper last weekend – Walsh and his team should instead lean in hard at Columbia Point, which is better positioned in the near term to benefit from his personal leadership. While the city can and should be able to multi-task when it comes to its planning and redevelopment efforts, it would be a mistake to prioritize Widett over Dorchester’s busy peninsula.

In an interview with the Reporter this week, Walsh indicated that he’d like to re-convene the mayoral task force that was the driving force behind a master plan for Columbia Point that was finalized in 2011 through the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

That document remains the operative paper for planning and executing development proposals for the peninsula and the Morrissey Corridor. But it could stand to be revisited in light of major developments— including the likely sale of the Boston Globe property, updated plans to expand UMass Boston, and new private projects along Mt. Vernon Street that have been approved by the BRA.

The community task force should be re-assembled in the near future to better coordinate new projects and to spur a renewed discussion about elements of the Boston 2024 that hold promise for Columbia Point. In particular, Walsh’s team, in conjunction with the task force, should seek to bring together the various private and public interests that have holdings at the Bayside section of Columbia Point. The complicated land-use issues at the site might have been more easily resolved through the concept of a “master developer,” another element of the Boston 2024 proposal that surfaced in recent weeks.

It is true that Widett Circle – as the mayor wrote in the Globe last Saturday – holds the promise of “a new neighborhood here, connecting South Boston and the South End.” (We would add that it would also stitch in Dorchester, which is adjacent to Widett Circle.)

But, Columbia Point is the more fertile ground for near-term transformation. Walsh and his team should turn their focus here first. Make the Point a case study in how city government can use its resources and know-how to help facilitate a well-informed, community-led redevelopment effort.

Dezenski takes her leave

This is the last edition of the Reporter for Lauren Dezenski, who has worked as a staff reporter here since May 2014. A native of Minnesota and a Boston University grad who now lives in Dorchester, Dezenski has accepted a position with Politico, an online publication that specializes in national and state coverage of politics and government.

Lauren did a terrific job covering our communities over the past year and she will be missed. On the upside: She plans to continue living in Dorchester and will be a frequent presence at the State House and City Hall. She will begin filing a new daily online summary of Massachusetts news for Politico starting later this month.

A new staff reporter for the Reporter will be introduced in our pages in the coming weeks.



Subscribe to the Dorchester Reporter