Upcoming Mass. Ave. Coalition Festival discussed at CSN meeting

Details of the next month’s second annual Mass. Ave. Coalition Festival were discussed during the virtual Aug. 2 monthly meeting of Chester Square Neighbors (CSN).

​The free, self-described “festival like no other,” again made possible by a collaborative effort that includes the four neighborhood associations comprising the coalition – CSN, along with the Claremont Neighborhood Association, the St. Botolph Neighborhood Association, and the Worcester Square Neighborhood Association – is set to return on Sunday, Sept. 17, from 1 to 4 p.m., rain or shine, to Chester Square on both sides of Massachusetts Avenue between Tremont Street and Shawmut Avenue. (Two carriage ways will be closed for the event this year, as opposed to only one last year, said Carol Blair, president of CSN.)

D. Murphy Photo
The proposed future home of Sugidama Back Bay at 665 Boylston St.

​While last year’s festival featured a four-piece jazz ensemble, this year’s musical entertainment will be provided by Ron Reid, a Berklee College of Music professor, leading a group of his students in a steel-drum ensemble. Of the $5,000 that has been budgeted for this year’s event, $3,200 is earmarked for music, Blair said.

​An additional $500 of the budget will be distributed among five neighborhood pizzerias while other complimentary food for guests will include fruit and popcorn. (Jim O’Donnell of CSN will again preside over the popcorn machine.) The Boston Police ice cream truck, which will distribute free frozen treats, and the Boston Water and Sewer Commission water truck are also scheduled for the event.

​The festival will additionally feature a raffle, with items donated by area businesses, as well as free pedicab rides for attendees.

​Meanwhile, Northeastern University will create a QR code for the festival showing the benefits of neighborhood trees, said Blair, while Boston Medical Center and the Boston Planning & Development Agency also recently committed to participating in the event.

​Sara Mitchell, vice president of CSN, will help oversee an area offering simple board games for children, such as Connect Four and checkers, along with arts and crafts.

​Mihiro Shimano, an aide for recently elected 9th Suffolk District State Rep. John Moran, said Moran plans to attend the event, and that he would like to volunteer in some capacity.

​While O’Donnell estimated attendance at the inaugural Mass. Ave. Coalition Festival, which took place on Sunday, Sept. 18, of last year, ranged between 150 and 200 guests, Blair said this year’s numbers could even exceed that due to considerable amount of advertising for this year’s event. “But it’s really hard to know,” added Blair.

​In another matter, Carol Streiff, a Chester Square Neighbor who has long worked with the group on development matters, as well as a Massachusetts Avenue resident, made a presentation on Mayor Michelle Wu’s ongoing efforts to reform the BPDA’s Article 80 review process for large-scale development projects.

​Mayor Wu has convened a Steering Committee to lead the reform process, said Streiff, which now comprises eight members “related to development,” along with Anthony D’Isidoro, president of the Allston Civic Association and the sole representative of a neighborhood civic organization on the committee. (The Steering Committee was originally supposed to comprise 11 members, said Streiff.)

​In a July 24 letter to the Steering Committee, representatives from 13 organizations across 30 neighborhoods, including Streiff, who also serves as chair of Roxbury Voices, as well as D’Isidoro, pointed to perceived flaws in the Article 80 process, including its seemingly “stubbornly opaque” nature, as well as the inconsistency of “spot zoning,” such as the creation of Planned Development Areas (PDAs) to facilitate development projects, among other concerns outlined.

​The letter also urges the city to enlist at least one new Steering Committee member who represents neighborhood or environmental interests.

​Moreover, Streiff pointed to what she describes as “sort of an unholy alliance between the BPDA and developers,” with the BPDA being incentivized to greenlight bigger developments with higher unit counts, which in turn generate more money for the BPDA itself. (The letter also advises the BPDA to hire additional staff to closely scrutinize agreements with developers, as well as their studies on the expected impacts of their projects [e.g. shadow and traffic studies], and to undertake an “independent post-development audit of every project.”)

​Streiff and other signees of the letter are now requesting a meeting with the Steering Committee and the city’s two consultants on this matter to discuss possible reforms to the Article 80 process, she said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.