Bay City’s latest plan receives mixed reviews at kickoff meeting

Accordia Partners kicked off another chapter in the already four-year process to plan and license Dorchester Bay City (DBC) at Columbia Point with an online meeting last Wednesday. Despite the recently unveiled changes to previous proposals, the conversation, which brought together more than 25 participants, showed some neighbors are still not happy with the development agenda or ambitious meeting schedule set to begin in January.

The development team’s new plans, which were revealed last week in The Reporter, followed filing of amended plans with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) which included the proposed acquisition of the property of the Boston Teacher’s Union (BTU) as well as several updates in response to neighborhood feedback at previous review meetings this year.

During nearly three hours of discussion, Accordia and BPDA held the first public meeting to present feedback from the neighborhood, and while residents appreciated, there were no standing ovations for the changed plans.

“We are delighted to be back in front of you,” said Kirk Sykes of Accordia. “It’s really a kick-off and a continuation of the dialogue that has been going on for several years. But also, it’s a follow-up to the meetings that took place last fall… It’s a “wow” site. It is literally the most transit-accessible beach, bay, HarborWalk and park combination in America. ”

In an hour-long presentation, Sykes highlighted some of the changes – including increasing affordable housing to 15 percent (from 13 percent required), improving links with Day Boulevard and Harbor Point, adding from a splashing entry point at the corner of Morrissey and Mt. Vernon, and redesigning the project as a series of “Green Gloves” leading “from the T to the sea”.

The nuts and bolts of the changes have now made the initiative a 15-year, five-phase development plan with 4.3 million square feet of office, research and lab space (75 percent of development), 1,970 residential units to include 296 affordable units. 60 percent AMI units and 165,000 square feet of retail floor space.

About 40 percent of the developed site will now be open space, including large portions of the waterfront to connect Mt. Vernon Street and Morrissey and Day boulevards. Compared to previous plans, the addition of the BTU property added 10,000 square feet of retail, 230 housing units and 400,000 square feet of office / lab space.

Still, several distant participants said the clever plans with modern buildings reminded them of the seaport, which in many circles in the Boston neighborhood has become synonymous with poor design and social exclusion.

“We don’t want to build another seaport here,” Dan Webber said. “I don’t want asphalt and concrete and parking lots, and I think that has to go. I’m all for density here, but if you say it’s not going to create a lot of demand for car and car traffic, you’d be crazy. The seaport created more demand than they thought, and the Silver Line was not enough… This is the opportunity to do something different.

For her part, Caroline Chou said she sees the plans as another exclusive unbuilt neighborhood for Dorchester residents. “I don’t understand how this is different from the seaport,” she said. “I don’t understand how this shows that it will create equity and not just another segregated and wealthy neighborhood that also cuts our communities off from the public space that is currently used by a very diverse group of people.”

Sykes had said from the outset that DBC strives to be the most inclusive community there is, and he said his team is working with Harbor Point and has no “fences” on their development to prevent people from dying. ‘enter.

“Our goal is to make DBC the most inclusive project in America, not just Boston,” he said at the start, promoting the skills training programs and employment opportunities that would come with it. office / laboratory space that is the majority of the project.

Dorchester resident Eileen Boyle challenged this notion when she asked about affordable housing and learned that some of these would be rentals on-site and others off-site and that ownership opportunities would come from a $ 10 million donation to Massachusetts Affordable Housing. Alliance (MAHA) for down payment assistance on non-DBC properties.

“It’s a problem,” she said. “I think 296 units is an insult when you have close to 2,000 units. I just want to tell UMass that I’m mad at them for starting this whole project. I really didn’t want to see another seaport near our beach. The beach will be destroyed… we will let the rich live here and you workers will live elsewhere. This is what this [plan] tell us.

Neighbor Elizabeth Doyle said she largely applauded the program, but wanted more details and figures on the beneficiaries of the project.

“I applaud the jobs and the benefits to the community, but as we move forward we have to see real numbers like the number of jobs and where the workers will come from,” she said. “We have to start getting into the details that are important. “

Several community members were also unhappy with the pace of review meetings scheduled for next winter, which includes four thematic meetings in January and February.

“You are exhausting people and pushing that rhythm in a way that is disrespectful to the community,” said George Lee.

BPDA project manager Aisling Kerr said they worked out the timeline with elected officials, community stakeholders and the developer, and were “very comfortable” with it, reporting that he probably wouldn’t change.

Don Walsh, of the Columbia Savin Hill Civic Association and a member of the DBC Community Advisory Committee (CAC), said, “I support the project and I support Accordia, but I have some complaints about the process. This is not how it should be. “

He also pointed out that DBC is just one of many developments that represent over 10,000 units of new construction that are either completed, under construction, or in planning in this area of ​​Dorchester. He cautioned that more attention needs to be paid to this aspect.

Accordia’s Dick Galvin said that DBC’s traffic planning group was working with a city / state task force and that they represented that 10,000 unit number that Walsh was referring to, which was apparently news to many. participants.

The project is not without strong supporters, however, as many unions and their local Dorchester members have come and gone to say they would like to see this project built to improve the community and put the local people to work.

Raheem Shepard, of the Carpenter’s Union, said he lived in Hyde Park and grew up in the St. Mark’s area of ​​Dorchester, and it was projects like this that brought him into the Carpenter’s Union – its ticket to home ownership and the middle class.

“We have over 100 members who live in Dorchester and our office is less than a quarter of a mile from the site,” he said. “Our office is training young men and women who would one day be part of this project… Boston is changing and without the Carpenter’s Union, I wouldn’t be an owner. These jobs are the gateway to the middle class for our residents.

The schedule for the next online meetings starts in January as follows:
•Jan. 10 p.m., 6 p.m .: Transport, infrastructure sustainability and resilience.
•Jan. 8 p.m., 6 p.m .: Housing and economic development.
•Jan. 31, 6 p.m .: Inclusive improvements of the public domain and creation of places.
•Feb. 5, 6 p.m .: Urban Design and Open Space.
Some of the community benefit commitments offered at the December 15 meeting include:
• 15 percent affordable housing on-site and off-site at 60 percent AMI.
• Contribution of $ 10 million to MAHA for assistance with the down payment on houses in communities of color.
• $ 57.9 million in linkage fee payments to support affordable housing projects in surrounding areas.
• 15.4 acres of open space accessible to the public.
• 12,500 square feet for community and cultural facilities.
• $ 4.5 million for an economic development fund to help existing businesses access DBC retail opportunities.
• $ 8.5 million for offsite resiliency solutions on Columbia Point and $ 5 million for flood protection along the neighboring community of Harbor Point Apartments.
• $ 26.7 million to design, license, finance and / or construct transportation infrastructure, of which $ 17.7 million was paid during phase 1 to advance design and licensing.

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