Time flies by fast, especially after attending public meeting after public meeting. The year of 2017 brought a lot of changes to our neighborhoods from concerns over new development projects to traffic qualms, to even just down-to-earth fun events with neighbors. To reflect back on everything that has happened this year, we compiled a list of the top stories of 2017.
Boston Flower Exchange Development
- Beginning in January of 2017, the Abbey Group began conservations with the community about their plans for the former Boston Flower Exchange site and how it will effect the larger South End community. The early meetings came after years of residents complaining that the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) takes large projects in piecemeal fashion – only dis-cussing one project at a time as if it were in a vacuum, seemingly to a person ignoring everything outside the project boundaries.
- The Abbey Group returned to the South End Forum on May 2 after touring every neighborhood association in the area to unveil what they have learned since their tour began in March. It is a new grass-roots process that has come before the project has even been submitted to the City, and one that many residents hope will break the mold of how projects are reviewed in Boston.
- One week after filing their long-awaited Project Notification Form (PNF) with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) in September, developers of the transformative Exchange South End project are already talking about what a great option their development would be for the coveted Amazon headquarters. Principles from the Abbey Group told the Sun that week that they would like to be considered as one of the sites in the city’s competitive bid to Amazon to host the internet company’s new world headquarters.
- In November there was one message coming out loud and clear from the Impact Advisory Group (IAG) members on the Exchange South End project on Albany Street: It’s that the project should not be rushed and transportation needs to be addressed with a larger lens.
Proposed Bay Village tower created controversy amongst residents
- The process began when members of Bay Village voiced their concerns over the newly pro-posed 19-story building slated for 212 – 222 Stuart Street at the Bay Village Neighborhood Association (BVNA) executive committee meeting held on January 9. Major concerns circled around height, light pollution, shadows to be cast onto the adjacent Statler Park, and the need for bigger units to attract more families. The biggest concern evolved around whether or not their community feedback would make a difference or not in the final design.
- After much debate between residents of the Bay Village, the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) board approved the 199-foot, mixed-use building at 212-222 Stuart Street with a unanimous vote at the hearing held on Thursday, June 15.
- The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) voted to approve the proposed 212 Stuart St. tower in the Bay Village during the board of directors hearing on Aug. 15. This comes after many hotly contested community meetings led up to the approval by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) this past June.
- In the fall the owners of the deed-restricted housing complex at 230 Stuart St., called South Cove Plazas, brought a lawsuit against the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) in response to the passage of the zoning variances for the proposed 212-222 Stuart St. tower in Bay Village – stalling the project until further notice.
Proposed Winthrop Square Tower
- The locally led fight against the proposed Winthrop Square Tower continued in late January when a rivalry between two buttons, one stating ‘Keep our Parks Sunny’ and the other stating ‘Let Boston Rise’ emerged at the second sched-uled open house style public meet-ing for the project slated for 115 Winthrop Square.
- On April 12, Mayor Martin Walsh filed his Home Rule Petition to the Boston City Council that would change the 25-year-old State law that governs shadows on the Boston Common and the Public Garden – essentially eliminating the remainder of the shadow bank, stopping any new development from creating more shadow on the parks.
- The Boston City Council passed the Home Rule Petition in a new draft with a 10 – 3 vote on April 26.
- Over the summer, Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin came out against amending the current Shadow Laws to allow a one-time exemption to the proposed 775- foot Winthrop Square Tower.
- Gov. Charlie Baker signed a home-rule petition into law later in the summer that would allow Millennium Partners to build a 775-foot luxury, condo tower on the site of the shuttered, city-owned Winthrop Square Garage, thereby bypassing two existing state “shadow” laws protecting the Boston Common and Public Garden.
Mayoral Election Heats Up
- On January 12, Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson announced his candidacy against the incumbent Mayor Martin Walsh in Roxbury. During the announcement he didn’t paint himself as a candidate for one particular group of people, but for all of the people of the city – in particular those in the neigh-borhoods and the students in the public schools that he indicated are increasingly getting left behind by a City he said is focusing too much on big money, big events and corporate deals.
- In November, Martin Walsh soared to victory over Jackson to begin his second term as Mayor.
City Council Election
- This past February, Boston City Councilor Bill Linehan a life-long resident of South Boston announced that he would not seek a sixth term for District 2. By creating a rare open seat on the Council, this might spark a generational shift in leadership in some of the City’s most rapidly evolving neighborhoods. This started the beginning of a race between five candidates.
- The dreams of the South End and Bay Village overpowering the tried and true Southie voting block in the District 2 City Council race were thwarted for the moment as Bay Village resident Mike Kelley suffered a lopsided loss to South Boston resident Ed Flynn in Tuesday’s Preliminary Election. The loss, however, does not pull the curtain on Kelley’s campaign, as he will face Flynn in the City Election on Nov. 7, but it does hit the reset button to some extent.
- In a race that seemed to fluctuate between close and not-so-close as the night went on Tuesday, the District 2 race finished in a bit of a nail biter, with Councilor-elect Ed Flynn winning out at the wire over Mike Kelley by around 500 votes.
- District 8 election got slightly heated when Kristen Mobilia of the Fenway took on incumbent Josh Zakim. In the end, Zakim beat Mobilia in a landslide victory but Mobilia was able to win a lot more votes than expected and is still a big part of the community. Zakim is now running for the 2018 election for Secretary of State.
Residents demand safer streets
- On May 10, residents packed the Boston City Council Chamber ensued during the budget hearing for the Department of Boston Transportation (BTD) to demand more funding for the Neighborhood Slow Street’s Program. The City initiative aims to slow traffic speeds and improve safety on residential streets within a specific area. Throughout the year, residents have pushed the city to implement safer technology to make Boston’s streets a safe place for everybody.
- The five neighborhoods that will join the Neighborhood Slow Streets program in 2017 were announced Thursday, July 20, leaving many communities who applied disappointed.
Residents share concerns over Back Bay pipeline
- The announcement of the proposed pipeline was brought to the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB) Green Committee hearing on Wednesday, May 31. National Grid is planning to install a natural gas distribution pipeline that will run through the Back Bay and parts of the South End.
- The Public Improvements Commission (PIC) approved the construction of a 4,100-foot natural gas main in the Back Bay at a hearing on Dec. 7, despite outrage amongst residents who claim National Grid is skirting a public process.
- Questions continued to rise at a Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities meeting on Dec. 15.
Marijuana Dispensaries Start Appearing
- At the Boston City Council hearing held on Wednesday, June 14, Councilor Josh Zakim filed for a hearing regarding a medical marijuana dispensary at 331 Newbury Street in the Back Bay.
- The Boston City Council voted to send a letter of non-opposition in the first step to allow Compassionate Organics to operate a medical dispensary at 331 Newbury Street in the Back Bay, at a hearing on Wednesday, June 28.
- The Boston Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) unanimously voted to allow the medical marijuana dispensary slated for 331A-333 Newbury St. to proceed this past November.
- News traveled fast in the South End at the end of December about a medical marijuana outfit that has begun pitching the idea of locating a facility in the 600th block of Tremont Street. Several neighborhood leaders told the Sun that Jeff Reillinger of Compassionate Organics has been making the rounds and pitching the idea of opening another medical marijuana location at 633 Tremont St.
Opioid Epidemic Causes Problems Throughout the City
- Calling it everything from ‘asinine’ to ‘absolutely necessary,’ the City Council’s Committee on Homelessness and Addiction Services held a hearing this past year on the touted plan by the state and the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) on Safe Injection Facilities (SIFs) – sites that have been floated as being most effective if located in the South End’s Mass/Cass corridor.
- After more than a year of planning, the Boston Municipal Court has embarked on a pilot program led by Judge Kathleen Coffey to help make it easier for police and physicians to involuntarily commit people who are a threat to themselves and the public because of their addiction – and it’s a process that requires a delicate balancing act.
- Whether it’s charging a phone, using the computer, having morning coffee with a partner, or even curling up with a book, the Engagement Center at Southampton Shelter – known around the neighborhood as the Tent – has proven to attract and help people get off of the streets during the daytime, City officials said over the summer during a media open house. [It has since closed due to a gasoline spill.]
- Frustrated residents in the South End streamed into the McKinley South End Academy last Wednesday, Nov. 15, to share their continued concerns and outrage over the ongoing opioid addiction-related problems in the neighborhood. Many residents feel overwhelmed by the side effects of living close to a cluster of addiction treatment facilities that have created quality-of-life problems such as encountering people using illegal drugs, excessive
Haddon Hall causes a stir in the Back Bay
•An overflow crowd of neighbors turned out for an on-site meeting at 29 Commonwealth Ave. on Thursday, Aug. 17, to discuss the current owners’ plans to transfer the 11-story building from office use into a private club. Sandy Edgerley and her husband Paul intend to covert Haddon Hall into a club with a membership of 800.
• At a special meeting of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB) Licensing and Building Use Committee on Tuesday, Sept. 19, the owner of 29 Commonwealth Ave. sought to assuage neighbors’ concerns regarding the potential traffic, delivery and noise impacts from changing its use from an office building to a private club.
• More than 100 Back Bay residents sporting the sticker “Keep Calm on Comm Ave” packed into City Hall this past Tuesday, Oct. 31, to show their opposition to the proposed private club slated for 29 Commonwealth Ave., only to be turned away after the applicant asked to postpone the hearing date until January 9.