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For Southie, what's in a name

Posted by Anthony Flint  September 7, 2010 04:58 PM

The moving trucks had gone ahead, and the Prius was packed with lingering possessions as I pulled around Broadway at Dorchester Avenue one final time, when I noticed the billboard that implored, "This Corner Needs a Name."

This corner needs a name SB.jpg

A resident of South Boston since the 1990s -- a fugitive of the South End -- I had written about the Towne in 2005 (Same Old Southie, Boston Globe Magazine), and identified this very spot as the place where the neighborhood would probably change fastest -- closest to the South End and downtown, all around the T station, with the Macallen and Court Square Press buildings, the new loft buildings on West Fourth Street, the renovated church and the transit-oriented development across from Mul's Diner at A Street. They started selling sushi at the site of the old Whitey Bulger hangout, the Triple O's. And then came the plans to build, sensibly, on the little parking lot at the T station, and the closing of The Quiet Man pub, and plans for a Foodies two blocks up. Dunkin Donuts still holds its ground against Starbucks, but change is in the air.
A place earns a name, over time. The street names are familiar and reassuring, like so many cities across the land -- Broadway as Main Street. Dorchester Avenue, a potential grand boulevard running deeply south into the city, used to run all the way up to downtown, before the US Postal Service blocked it off. As gateways go, though, what would be an appropriate label? WeSoBo (West South Boston)? Like "SoWa" (South of Washington Street), any SoHo-inspired moniker will seem forced. This may be especially true in this neighborhood -- a place where you can get a $15 haircut at Skip's, and a pint of Guiness in about a thousand pubs. You don't tend to appreciate things about a neighborhood until you leave it. This corner already has a name, and for as far as I can see, it will be Southie.

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About the author

Anthony Flint is a fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, a think tank in Cambridge, Mass. and author of Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on More »

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