Ellis South End Neighborhood Association Holds Annual Meeting

The Ellis South End Neighborhood Association held its annual meeting on May 24 at the Revolution Hotel on Berkeley St.

Many South End neighbors gathered to mingle with one another and listen to featured speaker Stephanie Seskin of the Boston Transportation Department, who spoke about the Tremont St. redesign project as well as upcoming plans to gather feedback on Columbus Ave.

Seskin said that there are “three different crews out working” on Tremont St. on things like the raised crosswalks, curb lines, and ensuring that water is draining properly in the area.

She said that the raised crosswalks are finished on Union Park, and that by the time the project is complete, “every unsignalized crossing on Tremont St.” will have raised crosswalks. Crews will also be working on traffic signal changes at Berkeley and Dartmouth Streets to make sure that traffic does not back up “too much” as a result of the reduction in traffic lanes.

The changes to the signals will be done later on in the work, Seskin said.

“We did a lot of one-on one engagement with the business community to understand the loading and unloading needs,” she said, as well as a parking study to learn where folks are being dropped off by ride share services and where food delivery people are parking to grab take out from restaurants.

She said that as part of this project, space has been set aside “on every single curb for deliveries during the day,” which changes over to food and passenger pickup later on in the day, then becoming resident parking overnight. The street will also feature metered parking that changes over to residential parking overnight as well.

“This is really an interesting test case for this theory,” Seskin said, that if more space is given for pickup and dropoff, then “it will be more organized.”

These areas will be denoted by signage, so if adjustments are needed down the road, they can be made easily, and meters can also be adjusted as well, she said.

Seskin said that the bulk of the work is expected to be complete before winter, but “we do plan to re-pave the entire street,” she said which cannot happen during the winter. Instead, it “will likely happen in 2023,” she said.

Seskin then talked about Columbus Ave., saying that the community had been engaged about what they would like to see in 2019, when mail was sent to about 6,000 South End residents and “another 11,0000 in other neighborhoods” as part of the city’s Connect Downtown initiative.

“We did a lot of work in 2019,” Seskin said, and “hit a pause when COVID became a pandemic.”

She continued, “at this point, what I’m really interested in understanding with Columbus” is similar to what the city wanted to know about Tremont—different thoughts, ideas, and suggestions as it relates to the use and safety of the street.

She said that the “full corridor from Mass. Ave. to Arlington” is being studied “to try to make it better for everyone. We don’t build our streets or redesign them very often,” she said, so feedback from those who regularly use the street is important.

She said the proposal for the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology (BFIT) lot will also play into what happens on Columbus Ave., but specifics of that project are still being worked out.

Seskin then took questions from attendees, and one asked about the loss of parking spaces in the neighborhood.

Seskin said that she is “not aware of specifics in the South End of restricting parking at intersections,” but it is something the city is exploring in neighborhoods like Dorchester and Roxbury.

When cars are parked right up to the edge of an intersection, it can be very difficult for drivers to see pedestrians who are trying to cross the street, especially if they are children or wheelchair users.

She said that as part of the Tremont St. redesign project, about 10 or 12 spaces are permanently restricted, but she suggested that folks bring this up with Steve Fox of the South End forum for further discussion.

Someone else made a comment about the city’s paring restriction signs for events like construction or moving, as the dates are very small and hard to read from inside a vehicle.

Seskin said that both Boston Transportation Department and the Public Works Department are involved with those signs. She agreed that making the dates larger and easier to read is a “really great idea,” and suggested that this also be brought up with Steve Fox.

Another question was raised about parking on Warren Ave., to which Seskin replied that she has heard concerns about crosswalks and that Warren Ave. is paring of the Connect Downtown network of streets, so there will be opportunity to discuss any issues as part of that community process.

After Seskin’s presentation, Ellis South End Neighborhood Association president John Alekna provided some remarks, and spoke about some of the organization’s committees and the work that they do. The Neighborhood Services committee handles things like trees and tree pits, pedestrian safety, bike lanes, and the Tremont St. redesign project.

The Development, Licensing, and Zoning Committee handles “building and related issues that happen within the Ellis footprint,” he said, and is “probably one of our busiest committees.” This committee has had input on the project on the BFIT lot, the Clarendon St. project, Back Bay Station, and others.

The Wine Committee helps create social gatherings for community members, the Community Outreach Committee supports local places like the McKinley School, the Membership Committee handles the organization’s membership and outreach, and the newest committee, the Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion Committee works to promote equity in the organization and in the community.

After voting in the new board members, Jane Seigel was presented with the Arthur F. Howe Award, which honors someone who has made “significant efforts to make the neighborhood more welcoming and inviting to people,” Alekna said.

Siegel is celebrating 50 years on W. Canton St. this coming September, and has worked for a number of years with Haley House,  is a member of the South End Seniors, was a previous Ellis board member, and was one of the first members of the organization’s Community Outreach Committee, Alekna said.

Siegel said that she moved to the South End because she “wanted to live in a diverse neighborhood” and send her children to public school. She said that the “South End has evolved” over the years, and “what makes the South End really special is the people.”

She encouraged residents to go to coffee hours held by both State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and City Councilor Ed Flynn, as well as join South End Seniors.

“It’s the people that make this neighborhood great,” Siegel said.

Following the meeting, a wine and cheese reception was held with an auction to benefit the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.

For more information about the Ellis South End Neighborhood Association and its work, visit ellisneighborhood.org.

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