(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2014)
As the sound of muskets broke the calm of the chilly spring air historians, elected officials, and local residents celebrated Evacuation Day in Roxbury Monday.
The annual event, dubbed the Evacuation Day Knox Trail Remembrance Caravan, for the past four years has toured South Boston, Roxbury, and Dorchester, highlighting places significant to the retreat of British solders from Boston during the Revolutionary War.
“It’s very important that we understand the history of any community we are in,” explained Representative Byron Rushing, who represents portions of Roxbury and the South End and is also the president of the Roxbury Historical Society. “If we don’t understand our history, we can’t really make judgments about our future. It is one of the resources that we need to figure out what we should be doing next.”
Under a blue sky, reenactors and historians shared with the small crowd gathered at the top of Fort Hill, the story of Evacuation Day and the significance of the area and its towering fortification. The Roxbury space was one of a number of fortifications in the city of Boston that not only provided American soldiers with the high ground, but was also a site utilized by Henry Knox, one of the heroes of the Revolution.
“We’re one of the most historic and landmarked sites during the period of the Revolution, so we’re very proud to be the third on a tour of all the sites that helped to keep the British out,” said Representative Gloria Fox, who represents portions of Roxbury and the Fenway. “People need to know how they came to live in a free and open society; it’s based on everybody’s blood, sweat, and tears.”
The tour did not just concentrate on Roxbury, but also swung by the Dorchester Heights Monument and St. Augustine Chapel in South Boston and the Shirley Eustis House in Dorchester. Although history was at the forefront Monday, the event also provided an opportunity to connect neighborhoods that at times have been at odds.
“It’s important to remember the people that came before us, but it’s also important to talk about our shared history,” explained Representative Nick Collins, who represents South Boston. “Because of some of the ups and downs over the last several decades, we get lot in the stuff that divides us and this is a great way to remind people why we need to be unified and why we are unified.”
Tomatoes and carrots could soon be sprouting from the soils of Roxbury.
On Monday night, a representative from the Trust for Public Lands was in front of Roxbury residents to explain his group’s plan to turn lots on Harold Street and Akron Street into commercial urban farms.
The land, which is owned by the city, would be sold to the trust as part of a Department of Neighborhood Development initiative to bring life to vacant properties, provide jobs, and increase access to healthy foods. The properties were advertised publicly and multiple applications for the parcels were received.
The Harold Street parcel includes two vacant lots located at 225 and 227 Harold St. The total area is about 12,699 square-feet and is valued at $79,500, according to the city’s Assessing Department.
The other parcel, located at 3 Akron St., is approximately 8,762 square feet and is valued at $65,700.
If the Trust for Public Lands is designated the developer of the properties, the city would transfer ownership of the parcels to the trust. The trust would then construct the basic infrastructure for the farms and then transfer ownership of the property to the Dudley Neighbors Incorporated, which would be the long-term owners. The land would them be leased by DNI to the Urban Farming Institute, which would be tasked with finding farmers for the property, according to Chris LaPointe, senior project manager for the Trust for Public Lands.
Although the exact layout of the farms has not been determined, they are likely to include some sort of low fencing, a shed, signs, water hookups, and compost pile. New soil, which would be tested regularly, will also be brought in for the farm’s plots.
The project is expected to utilize the newly minted Article 89 , which lays out the process of opening a farm in Boston and provides regulations to protect adjacent homeowners and consumers of the farm’s products.
A concrete timeline for the project has not been determined, but LaPointe said his group hopes to own the property by the end of May and have it permitted and ready to farm by the summer.
“We’re going to try to be moving as fast as we can, but we’re all going through a new thing together,” said LaPointe.
At Monday’s meeting, the 15 residents in the room expressed excitement for the projects.
“The collaboration with all the groups has been wonderful and it’s been a delight to see how well government can work, when it does work,” said Bette Toney, president of the Tommy’s Rock Neighborhood Association.
“I absolutely love the idea and it couldn’t be a better use of the land,” said Alyssa Aftosmes-Tobio, who recently moved to the neighborhood.
To read about the initial community meeting for Harold Street, click here.
To read about the initial community meeting for Akron Street, click here.
Boston’s first energy-positive residential development is expected begin construction by the fall.
Developers with Sebastian Mariscal Studio Inc., the proponents behind the $13-million “green” project in Mission Hill, appeared before the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals Tuesday, for the project’s final sign-off. The Boston Redevelopment Authority approved it in February.
Plans call for the construction of a mixed-use development for 44 residential rental units, community garden space, and ground floor commercial space at 778-796 Parker St. and 77 Terrace St.
The units, which will be located on a series of vacant city-owned lots between Parker Street and Terrace Street, will include 29 one-bedroom residences, 10 two-bedroom residences, and five three-bedroom residences. Close to 20 percent of the units will be set aside for affordable housing.
The developer was selected to construct on the lots after a community process that included a publicly advertised proposal. The property, which was appraised for $990,000, will be sold to the developer for $600,000, according to the Department of Neighborhood Development.
The project’s commercial space, which will front on Terrace Street, will be approximately 4,120 square-feet.
In addition to the units, the project, located a few blocks from the Roxbury Crossing MBTA station, also provides space for 30 car parking spaces, 82 bike parking spaces, and 48 storage units.
The project will incorporate approximately 14,000-square-feet of solar panels and a number of other energy saving tools to meet its energy positive standards. Once the project is up and running, developers estimate that the development will create an energy surplus of 21 percent.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Joe Hanley, the developer’s attorney, called the project innovative and said it is something the city has never seen.
“This is the city’s first energy positive project, so we have something here that’s very innovation,” said Hanley. “This is a transit oriented site to say the least, and we plan on taking advantage of that.”
In addition to the units, the project also includes space for community gardens; the area had been used in the past for “guerrilla gardens.” The new gardens will be located on top of the units with access to the gardens from Parker Street.
“At the very beginning I was opposed to this, we wanted our gardens on Parker Street,” Francie Hauck, one of the garden’s founders told the board. “…this is a beautiful project and I support it.”
Close to 10 residents turned out to voice their support for the project, in addition to local elected officials.
“The team has done a great job getting out there and I’m happy to see this project,” Representative Jeffery Sanchez told the board.
Representatives from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, the office of at-Large City Councilor Michael Flaherty, the office of at-Large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, and the office of City Councilor Josh Zakim also voiced their support for the project.
Representatives from Mission Hill Main Streets, the Electricians Local 103, the Carpenters Union, the Department of Neighborhood Development, and the Boston Natural Areas Network also voiced their support for the project.
Two residents turned out to oppose the project, citing concerns about the project’s impact to the gardens, parking, and the undervaluation of the property by the city.
“We have been opposing this since its inception,” Kathryn Brookins told the board. “If you look at the plans, you see the pictures are idealized.”
The board voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the project.
Construction is expected to begin by the fall of 2014, with work expected to take upwards of 18 months, according to the developers.
The Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center at Roxbury Community College will be revamped, thanks to funds provided by the Commonwealth.
Last week, Governor Deval Patrick announced $4 million in capital funds for major building repairs and renovations to the structure that sits on the corner of Malcom X Boulevard and Tremont Street in Roxbury.
“Roxbury Community College is working hard to better align their academic programs with the communities workforce needs and better equip students with the skills they need to succeed in the classroom and in the workforce,” Matthew Malone, the Commonwealth’s secretary of education, said in a statement.
Opened in 1995, in addition to hosting the community college’s sports teams, the 70,000-square-foot center is also heavily used by the surrounding community for cultural activities and youth sports events.
“The Patrick Administration has made investing in public higher education a priority,” Glen Shor, the Commonwealth’s secretary of administration and finance, said in a statement. “Financing this capital project at Roxbury Community College will have a positive impact on both the students and the community as a whole.”
Close to $26 million of capital funds have been committed to Roxbury Community College during the Patrick Administration, according to a release from the Governor’s office.
After residents pushed the city to abandon its plan to use the East Cottage Street parcel in Uphams Corner, dubbed the Maxwell Property, for a Public Works storage yard, the Department of Neighborhood Development has moved forward with its plan to sell the property.
DND officials were in Dorchester Thursday night, to unveil the draft Requests for Proposals developed for the property. The RFP is DND’s standard process for selling public property. The document, which is publicly advertised, is a guideline for potential developers, laying out what the community would like to see at the sprawling property.
“The development proposals [RFP] were developed based on feedback we got at two community meetings in the fall and by the Uphams Corner Working Advisory Group,” explained Chris Rooney, a project manager for DND.
Owned and managed by the city of Boston, the property, which is bound by East Cottage Street, the Fairmount Commuter Rail Line, and Hillsboro Street, was once home to the Maxwell Box Company, but the city took control of it in 2010 after years of tax disputes with the owner.
The parcel is approximately 120,000 square-feet and a dilapidated warehouse currently resides on it. Both were assessed in 2013 for a combined $1.9 million.
Although it is not set in stone, the city will likely demolish the decaying building prior to it being sold.
“It’s a much more attractive site without the building, but we’re still working on the numbers,” said Rooney.
The draft RFP presented Thursday, called for proposals that are, “contextual with the existing neighborhood in terms of height, scale, massing, construction materials, and visual appearance.”
Other caveats in the RFP included the developer working with the community, following the Boston Residents Job Policy, and creating open space that could be utilized by the surrounding community.
In addition to guidelines about the shape and size of potential projects, the RFP also provided guidance on what the community would like to see the property used for.
Mixed-use development was at the top, in addition to housing and possible light industrial use.
Although most of the 30 or so residents at Thursday’s meeting were supportive of potential mixed-use or residential projects at the site, some were hesitant about light industrial.
“I was concerned about the statement that it could go 100 percent light industrial,” said Susan Capachione, an area resident.
“My concern is the light industrial,” said Emma Montgomery. “To us this is a neighborhood and we certainly don’t want to see the wrong type of industry.”
Rooney stressed that any potential project would need the support of the community to be built.
“One of the things we heard was that job creation is important to the community,” said Rooney. “She [Sheila Dillon, director of the Department of Neighborhood Development] felt strongly that because of its size, where it sits in zoning, and what we heard from the community, that it could be used for job creation.”
Some in attendance also called on DND to promote the parcel’s connections to the nearby Uphams Corner MBTA Station.
“I’d like to see an emphasis on projects that reflect transit oriented development,” commented Nancy Conrad, an area resident.
Overall the majority of the audience seemed ready to get the project started sooner than later.
“It’s [the property] unique because of its size,” explained Max MacCarthy, executive director of the Uphams Corner Main Streets, a business development non-profit. “It has a lot of potential to provide a lot of jobs or housing and could have a transformative effect on the community.”
The RFP will likely be on the market for 90 days, according to DND officials.
For more information about the project, visit DND’s project page.
(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2014)
The rusting bridge that carries foot traffic over the Fairmount Commuter Rail tracks from Ceylon Street/Alexander Street to Bird Street, has been closed by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, due to unsafe conditions at the property.
“The MBTA’s safety department deemed the Ceylon Street bridge unsafe, mainly due to issues with the support structure and it was immediately ordered closed,” said a spokesperson for the T, which manages the property. “No decisions on the future of the bridge have been made at this time. Currently, customers may utilize an accessible crossing within a very short distance of the bridge.”
Although the move by the T is welcome news — neighborhood activist have complained about its condition for some time — its future is still unknown.
Activists have said that the bridge is an important connection for residents trying to access the various schools, community centers, and commercial districts in the area.
City Councilor Tito Jackson, who represents the area, said he is staying on top of the situation and the T’s decision was the right one.
“The T is doing the right thing by securing the bridge because it was unsafe,” said Jackson. “Now the conversation really turned to one of finances.”
Jackson added that while the future of the bridge may be unknown, it provides an opportunity to have broader discussions about the neighborhood’s infrastructure and priorities.
“We need to make an assessment and prioritize the needs in the community,” said Jackson. “I think there’s a large conversation that should be had relative to planning, so we can assess where those connections should be.”
For a video about the bridge’s condition, click here.
(Image courtesy Google Maps)
The following was submitted by the Whittier Street Health Center
Whittier Street Health Center’s FREE Community Flu Vaccination Clinics
Saturday, March 8, 2014
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
1290 Tremont St. Boston.
Get your free flu vaccination this Saturday! Whittier Street Health Center in Roxbury is offering free flu vaccinations Saturday, March 8, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the 2nd floor in the Community Education Room, 1290 Tremont Street, Roxbury. The free clinics are sponsored by the Boston Public Health Commission and Whittier Street Health Center. For questions, call (617) 427-1000 or visit www.wshc.org.
Get your free flu vaccination at Whittier Street Health Center this Saturday, March 8th from 10 to 2 p.m., at 1290 Tremont Street, Roxbury. For more information, visit www.wshc.org.
The Boston Parks and Recreation Department will be in Roxbury this week to talk with residents about improvements slated for Horatio Harris Park and the Little Scobie Playground.
Horatio Harris Park
The first in a series of public meetings to discuss Horatio Harris Park will be held Wednesday, March 5, at the Shelburne Community Center, 2730 Washington St. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m.
Located along Walnut Avenue, the approximately 2.5-acre park was last renovated in the mid-1980s, according to the Parks Department.
Although community input will be taken regarding renovations to the property, possible improvements include the revamping of the park’s paths and landscaping.
A timeline for the $350,000 project has yet to be determined.
Little Scobie Playground
Parks representatives will also be in the neighborhood to discuss improvements to the Little Scobie Playground. A community meeting will be held Thursday, March 6, at the Twelfth Baptist Church, located at 160 Warren St. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m.
Located along Copeland Street, the approximately three-quarter of an acre park was last renovated in 1969, according to the Parks Department.
Although community input will be taken regarding renovations to the property, possible improvements include renovations to the park’s playground equipment for safety and accessibility.
The approximately $550,000 project is expected to begin in the fall of 2014.
The William J. Devine Golf Course at Franklin Park could soon be fully certified by the Audubon International’s Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses, recognizing the recreational area’s commitment to the environment.
The program, which helps golf courses protect the environment while promoting the history of the game, evaluates five different environmental areas: chemical use reduction and safety, water conservation, water quality management, wildlife and habitat management, and outreach and education.
The Franklin Park course has been certified in the categories of chemical use reduction and safety, water conservation, and water quality management since 2011 and hopes to receive certification in the final two categories by 2015, according to Russ Heller, the course superintendent.
“It’s [the program] is a way to highlight the things we already do and helps build upon those things while showing the general public what we have accomplished,” said Heller. “We have 100 acres of green space, and when you have that much green space, wildlife lives there.”
The course has seen success in the reduction of chemical contamination as well as its work to protect nearby water supplies. It, however, must still be certified in wildlife and habitat management and outreach and education, something Heller said he will be pushing for this year.
To tackle the wildlife and habitat management category, Heller suggested a number of initiatives including the installation of more bird nesting sites, the construction of a hummingbird and butterfly garden, the restoration of native landscaping, and some restoration work at Scarborough Pond.
To fulfill the outreach and education component, Heller said he hopes to lean on the course’s many partners to boost event participation and help support the installation of displays and informational boards.
“This is a way to show that our golf course is a beneficial space for wildlife and we can use the program to take that a little further,” Heller added.
Once fully certified, the William J. Devine Golf Course will be the first municipal golf course and fourth public golf course to receive the certification.