Time for a Landmark? CPS to Ask for Master Plan and Landmarks District

The Charlestown Preservation Society (CPS) has sent a letter to the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) this week asking for a Master Plan process in Charlestown that will also include some type of Landmarks protective district in the core of the Town – while engaging in active planning for the edges of the Town.

“Our city is in a transformative period and the pressures of economic development must be balanced against preserving and strengthening our residential neighborhoods,” read the letter. “Our community needs a comprehensive master plan establishing the framework for future development in Charlestown and ensuring our community’s voice is recognized before development occurs. A comprehensive master plan would provide a framework for balanced and thoughtful new growth and development at the neighborhood’s bordering commercial districts and waterfront areas, while preserving and enhancing the quality of life in the community’s residential core.”

Jeff Abramson, new chair of Design Review, and Amanda Zettel, chair of Community Programs, said they are enlisting the help of everyone in the neighborhood to sound off on the need for a master planning process that also includes a protected district.

Abramson said the idea came out of all of the major projects now coming to bear and in the planning stages – such as Hood and One Charlestown – and the desire to look at them comprehensively and not piece by piece.

“We felt this was a good time for this,” he said. “The zoning ordinance that are in place aren’t very useful if every project just goes and seeks a variance…Instead of on a case by case basis, let’s look at guidelines that help inform us as we go forward.”

Zettel said they would like to also engage the entire community on the idea of some unique, and specially tailored Landmarks District for Charlestown to protect the historical character.

“While we are supportive of a growth district on the edges of the area, we are also interested in preserving the neighborhood core,” she said. “We are primarily looking for more protections for historic structures…There’s a balance between allowing people to develop and improve their homes, but there also has to be core protections to keep people from coming in and demolishing an historic structure.”

Abramson added that a Landmarks District in the Town could be tailored very specifically, and doesn’t have to be a situation like in Beacon Hill where you have to apply to the board “to paint your front door orange.”

Added Zettel, “It’s more about making sure our historic neighborhood doesn’t disappear.”

Zettel and Abramson said the Master Plan would be to engage the public on planning for the edges, not to exclude anyone, and to see if there is support for a Landmarks District.

The first step, however, is getting the BPDA to agree to the year-long study.

“Right now, we don’t have an agenda except to say we want this study,” said Abramson.

The idea of a Master Plan is not new, nor is a Landmarks District for the Town. However, this new effort comes at a different time, a time when the Town and its edges are being changed in a way not seen in decades. That, more than anything, is why they said CPS decided to move fast on this effort.

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