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Businesses around Mass. and Cass are pushing for the creation of a ‘business improvement district’

“This is going to make a difference in the quality of life of the property owners and the businesses and the residents around here.”

Susan Sullivan, Executive Director of the New Market business association walks along Topeka Street past the encampments. Jessica Rinaldi/Boston Globe, File

Businesses dealing with the impacts of the opioid epidemic around the area of the city known as “Mass. and Cass” are pushing forward a plan to create a “business improvement district” to help deal with the effects of the crisis. 

mass. and cass

The Newmarket Business Association plans to submit paperwork to the city on Friday for the creation of a district covering the city blocks at the intersection of Dorchester, Roxbury and the South End, the Boston Business Journal reports. The business improvement district, or BID, would allow the collection of mandatory fees from property owners in the area that would go toward hiring a private security force, a full-time street cleaning crew, and running an all-day shuttle, among other interventions aimed at stemming the worsening conditions in the area that community and neighborhood leaders have been raising concerns about for years.

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The blocks surrounding the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard have become the epicenter of the opioid epidemic and crisis of homelessness in the region, with the situation only being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. A range of business leaders, neighbors, and advocates have been calling on city and state officials to do more to address the worsening conditions, which have seen a drastic increase in the number of people living on the street since July — particularly on Atkinson and Topeka streets.

Some businesses, including the Greater Boston Food Bank, are already spending hundreds of thousands to address property damage and vandalism by adding security, extra cleaning efforts, or paying for alternate transportation for employees concerned about safety walking in the area.

“We’re just sitting here having a tsunami bury us,” Catherine D’Amato, president and CEO of the Greater Boston Food Bank, has said of the issues.

According to the Journal, work to establish the BID has been underway for more than two years. State law requires buy-in from owners of at least 51% of the assessed value of the property and 60 percent of all the property in the proposed district. 

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So far, the association has achieved buy-in from 60 percent of all the property owners in the proposed district, which would extend beyond Newmarket Square, including Boston Medical Center and the South Bay shopping center, according to the report. The proposal needs to be approved by Boston City Council. 

Sue Sullivan, executive director of the Newmarket Business Association, told the publication she hopes the council will approve the district by mid-November. 

“I know, in the deepest part of my heart, that this is going to make a difference in the quality of life of the property owners and the businesses and the residents around here,” she said. “Let’s do it, so everyone can see the difference it makes.”

Read the full report at the Boston Business Journal.

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