Neighbors stew while BC ponders
For Brighton residents who live near Boston College, the waiting is the hardest part.
They've watched over the last three years as BC has purchased all 64 acres of land on the ridge of Brighton formerly occupied by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. They've fretted over a possible increased student presence near their homes. And during community task force meetings, as a variety of suggested uses for the land -- from a baseball stadium to new dorms to a parking garage -- have been floated, they've wondered aloud: What exactly will become of the space?
"The big question is, what are they doing? That's what we need to know," said Lake Street resident Alessandro "Alex" Selvig, who is running for a Brighton City Council seat under a platform primarily geared at protecting his neighborhood from the college's possible expansion.
But no firm initiatives for the college's master plan have been announced, even after the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency, which underwrites projects seen as boosting the state's economic growth, granted the college a $177 million tax-exempt bond on Aug. 13. Part of the bond will go toward acquiring the final parcel from the church, 18 acres, for $65 million.
"The troubling part is that BC has yet to file one shred of paper identifying what they're going to do with the land," said Secretary of State William F. Galvin, a Lake Street resident for more than 25 years and a critic of the college's plans. "They're seeking government-backed funds when they're not even being forthcoming with what they're going to do."
The master plan is still being shaped, according to Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn, who predicted it will be ready for submittal to the Boston Redevelopment Authority before the end of the year.
"Before we submit the master plan, we will submit it to the task force and to the BRA. It's a public document that even the neighbors will see," Dunn said. "There will be no surprises. They'll have the full account of our plans."
Such proposals can take upward of a year to flesh out and no construction is imminent, BRA spokeswoman Jessica Shumaker said. As plans are developed, the BRA will continue to allow for community involvement in task force meetings about the project, she said.
"The community has had a lot of meetings and it seems they kind of feel like they've said to BC, 'Here are our official thoughts' but they haven't seen a new rendition from BC yet. That's the frustration they're expressing," Shumaker said.
"But the reason they haven't seen a revised plan is that BC is working on getting a new one and filing it. There will be many more opportunities for the community to weigh in and help shape the proposal," she said.
BC spokesman Dunn said the MassDevelopment bond will be used to fund renovations to a recreation complex and student center, as well as three academic buildings, all on the school's Chestnut Hill campus.
He said beyond the $65 million going toward the acquisition of the final parcel of church land, most of the rest will be used to pay off the college's debts. None of the bond will be used to fund construction in Brighton, he said.
But without a firm outline of the master plan, tensions continue to flare among the college's neighbors, who worry about worst-case scenarios.
"I'm not so much concerned about the bond issue in and of itself, what I'm concerned about is what the money's going to be used for," Selvig said. "And I don't support financing projects that are going to wipe out conservation land and essentially choke off the surrounding neighborhood."
Glenn Yoder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.