Mayor Walsh offers remarks at Fenway Civic Association annual meeting

The Fenway Civic Association (FCA) held its 58th annual meeting on Feb. 5 at the newly opened 401 Park building. On the agenda was a 2018 Year in Review from the FCA board, as well as presentations from developers John Rosenthal and Samuels & Associates about their work on air-rights parcels in the neighborhood.
However, special guest Mayor Marty Walsh led off the meeting by giving an update about the neighborhood, as well as making himself available for questions and comments from those in attendance.
Walsh spoke highly of the elected officials who attended the event, including new City Councilor Kenzie Bok, Sen. Will Brownsberger, State Rep. Jay Livingstone, and State Rep. Jon Santiago.
“You don’t see a new city councilor appointed the chair of Ways and Means,” Walsh said of Bok’s appointment to the City Council committee. “She will be more than capable of handling that role.”
Walsh began his update with development projects that are happening in the neighborhood, including the Boston Arts Academy and the Scape housing project on Boylston St.
“Since February 2014 in this neighborhood, 2 million square-feet of development has been residential,” Walsh said. “Twenty percent of housing is low or deed restricted income.” He said that Boston is the only city in Masssachusetts that is really making strides in building housing. “All of the pressure is on the City of Boston,” he said, adding that he is working with officials at the State House on spreading the responsibility of building housing thought the Commonwealth.
Walsh said that since 2015, 2,200 chronically homeless people have been housed. Within the course of this year, 32,000 units of housing will have been built in the city of Boston since Mayor Walsh took office, but 40,000 people remain on the Boston Housing Authority waitlist.
A resident asked the Mayor what his opinion on rent control was, to which Walsh responded, “I think it’s a conversation we need to have.” He said that the City would have to weigh what rent control would do to the City’s economy and the housing stock. “Our issue in Boston is a supply and demand issue,” he said. “We have to deal with price and supply. College students are staying in Boston and it’s putting a strain on our housing stock.”
In addition to construction projects in the neighborhood, the City is working with the Boston Police Department to strengthen enforcement, and Walsh said that the Uber and Lyft dropoff/pickup pilot has been a success. The City also continues to work on improving dedicated bike lanes. Eight miles have been completed in six years, and another 11 miles are “in the pipeline to move forward,” Walsh said.
The City is also investing in parks to protect the city from storms and storm surges, including removal of invasive species along the Muddy River that is in progress. With funds from the Community Preservation Act (CPA), the City was able to fund, along with the FCA’s help, the Westland Ave. Gateway and the Johnson Memorial Gates project. Walsh said that although the United States is currently not a leader on the environment front, Boston continues to lead.
Walsh also said that he believes the MBTA needs a $30-$40 billion investment to make it run the way it needs to. “Unless we make a major investment, we’ll have the same system.” Walsh said the MBTA was ignored for years and still consists of extremely old parts that are really beginning to break down and affect service.
However, Sen. Brownsberger said that “a lot of the investment in the MBTA is underway.” He said that by 2023, there will be completely new Red and Orange lines. “There is passionate engineering leadership at the MBTA right now.”
FCA Year in Review
Tim Horn, president of the FCA, gave an abbreviated version of the Year in Review as time was running short. He said he FCA was instrumental, along with other groups such as the Fenway Community Development Corporation (CDC), in passing the legislation surrounding restrictions on Airbnb and other short term rentals in the City.
The FCA also works against off campus dormitories, such was the original Scape proposal (which is now proposed to be housing instead.) Addiitonally, the FCA adviocates for parks, sepcifciall on the Muddy River Project and the Wetlands Protection Ordinance.
In 2019, the Robert Burns Statue was also relocated from Winthrop Square back to its original location in the Back Bay Fens. In 2020, the FCA hopes to continue work on the Back Bay Fens Pathway Repairs project.
“We believe the best decisions an the best answers to our problems are when a lot of people come together,” Horn said. “Everybody can walk away with something that’s good for them.” He said the purpose of the FCA is “not to be divisive, control everybody, and have all the power.”
Air-Rights Developments
As previously reported in the Sun, two projects in the Fenway area are being built on air-rights parcels. John Rosenthal of Meredith Management said that Phase One of his project known as Fenway Center, located over the Massachusetts Turnpike next to Lansdowne Station, is expected to be completed very soon, with Phase Two to begin next summer with the deck for buildings spanning the area between Brookline Avenue to Beacon Street.
Due to the price and difficulty of building on air-rights parcels, “very few air-rights will ever get developed,” Rosenthal said. “The only ones will have bridges to connect to land on either side.”
He said that no debt is required to complete Phase Two, as the research and science facilities that will occupy the office space in the new buildings are able to make this phase a reality. “Very few uses could support the cost of this building,” he said.
The other air rights parcel, known as Parcel 12, is located in the “critical” intersection between Mass Avenue and Boylston, and Newbury streets. The land is being developed by Samuels & Associates, and Abe Menzin gave the brief presentation.
He said that the team has been working for eight years “on all the technical aspects” of the project and that it will “be the greenest building we’ve ever built.” As previously reported in the Sun, the project consists of building mixed-use buildings on the parcel with green space and a sunset viewing deck. The development will also create better access to the Hynes Convention Center MBTA stop and buses, as well as improve the pedestrian, motorist, and cyclist experience. The buildings will host office space, retail space, residential/hotel space, and restaurant space, with plenty of green space and trees in a plaza, as well as a 150-space parking garage below ground level.

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