(Image courtesy Erik Miller)
Nearby residents and other neighbors of the South Bay Shopping Center have developed a master plan to help guide future development in the area.
Roughly defined as the space between West Howell Street, Enterprise Street, Boston Street, and the South Bay Shopping Center, the area studied by the group is home to a number of industrial and commercial buildings in addition to some residential properties.
The planning process was originally sparked by conceptual drawings created by Samuels and Associates, the developers that built the mall. The drawings showed the possible expansion of the mall toward Boston Street including the construction of two structures to host a BJ’s Wholesale Club and Lowe’s.
The mall has no immediate plans to expand, however.
"The plans the community are looking at are something we did years ago," Diana Pisciotta, a spokesperson for Samuels and Associates, told Boston.com in March. "[The expansion] is something we are not pursuing. It's possible that at some point we may look to expand, but we have no real plans at the moment."
Over the past year members of local neighborhood associations, community groups, and businesses associations have been meeting to create a vision for the area including the creation of a completely new neighborhood.
“This is the community input about what we’d like to see down the road,” Desmond Rohan, a member of the McCormack Civic Association’s Executive Board, explained at the unveiling of the master plan Saturday. “A lot of the land down there is for lease, for sale, or not operating at its full capacity and this is a proactive approach to creating our own concept plan.”
Under the banner group, Citizens Connect to South Bay, resident planning sessions have been held to gather suggestions and figure out what residents think would fit best in the area.
Traffic, safety, and the environment were at the forefront of conversations when creating the master plan, with many saying Boston Street is already too congested, the neighborhood doesn’t need more parking lots, and safety can be an issue.
Taking what was said in past meetings, Erick Miller, a pro-bono architect and the director of the Center for Community and Learning Partnerships at the Wentworth Institute of Technology, has been working with residents to design a map of the area displaying for future developers where and what residents think should be built in the area.
From taller mixed-use buildings, to open space, and the creation of a mini village square, the conceptual plan generally lays out the development of a neighborhood that would bring new street life, residents, shops, underground parking, and buildings to the community.
In addition to the new buildings, the plans propose the construction of a new street starting at Boston Street that connects to the South Bay Mall in between West Howell and Enterprise Streets. The new one-way street would funnel traffic from Boston Street to the South Bay Mall, but it would not take mall traffic back towards Boston Street.
The new map presented Saturday, a synthesized version of nine maps generated at past meetings, was embraced by many who attended the meeting, but questions still remained.
“You don’t need more residential in the area,” said Virginia Luscinski, an area resident. “There is already industrial, we need more commercial there.”
Luscinski was not alone in her comments; some said the influx of new residents would only compound existing traffic woes.
Others though saw the proposed layout of mixed-use development, residential buildings, and green space, as a way to not only develop the area but promote “smart growth” that could benefit from nearby transit connections.
“The reason you need residential is because they are the eyes and ears of the neighborhood and that’s what keeps it safe,” said Paul DeLorey, the vice president of the Dorchester Historical Society, which abuts the study area.
Even with the work, there is still no promise that future developers, if there are any, will follow the plans generated by residents.
“It’s less about telling people and more about showing what we talked about,” Miller told the crowd.
With the map and further input gathered at Saturday’s meeting, a report with community recommendations will be generated and eventually published. In addition to laying out what was discussed at past meetings, the report will highlight the best way for the community to move forward in promoting the generated ideals.