BRA Won’t Expand Urban Renewal into Sullivan Sq

January 28, 2016
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After a year-long planning process to approve a new, 10-year Urban Renewal Plan for 14 areas of Boston – including Charlestown’s large Urban Renewal Area (URA) – the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) indicated it will not expand Charlestown’s URA into Sullivan Square.

The Charlestown URA has existed for many decades, and includes almost all of the Town except for Sullivan Square. In a meeting at Charlestown High last summer, and in a somewhat surprising move, the BRA planners indicated they would like to expand the URA into Sullivan Square to plan a future course for the hotly debated traffic circle.

This week, however, after getting approval from the BRA Board last month for the citywide plan for the 14 areas, the BRA said it would not yet expand any boundaries in Charlestown.

“We’re currently not proposing to change the boundaries in any urban renewal areas as part of this extension process,” said Nick Martin, a spokesman for the BRA. “It is something we’re looking at as part of our two-year action plan that will be coming up. When we came out and talked about expanding to Sullivan Square, we understood we didn’t have the ability to expand or change the boundaries of areas right now because that is a whole other level of effort. We’re looking to include that public input and looking at potentially extending boundaries in the two-year action plan.”

The Board vote in December is the first vote in the long approval process.

Martin said they approved a 10-year extension of Urban Renewal, with the idea that input from the year-long community planning session would be addressed in the two-year action plan.

While many other areas of Boston had hoped to shrink boundaries, many Charlestown residents – it was reported last fall by the Patriot Bridge – had responded positively to the BRA expanding its reach in Charlestown to include Sullivan Square. That area is hotly contested now as development all around the Town sprouts up in the form of large office buildings, a major destination resort casino and hundreds of new housing units. The BRA hopes to be able to do some planning efforts of the Sullivan Square and Rutherford Avenue areas as part of Urban Renewal at some point, it has said.

For now, though, they will stick to the current boundaries and purposes for the 10-year renewal.

That proposed plan is now before the Boston City Council for consideration.

A public working session on the plan will take place next Thursday, Feb. 4, with the Council at City Hall. That will precede a public hearing, which will come soon and will permit residents to speak on the plan.

Mayor Martin Walsh and his administration also must sign off on the plan.

After the Council and mayoral process, the plan will be submitted to the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) for final approvals.

Urban renewal, according to the BRA, which today is used in a much more thoughtful and restrained manner than the heavy-handed approach of the 1960s and 1970s, helps to create affordable housing restrictions, promote and protect open space, and assemble parcels and clear title for development to allow projects to secure financing.