Community Consensus Plan for One Charlestown is Gaining Momentum

It has no official standing, but in the community, the “rogue” Community Consensus Plan for One Charlestown has gained a solid standing of advocates – and the drafters of the plan will hold a community meeting on the effort tonight, Thursday, Feb. 22, at 6:30 p.m. in the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

“I believe this plan can work and I’ve spent a lot of time making sure that is correct,” said Sy Mintz, an architect/planner who lives in Charlestown and has spent countless volunteer hours working on the alternate plan. “I don’t write down anything I haven’t checked out. I know this will work because I have done it before.”

Said supporter Diane Valle, “Our metric is how we are all going to live together and be healthy and happy together and that sometimes isn’t carried over in the ROI (Return on Investment) model. We want to collaborate. We want the community at the table. This is a once in a lifetime chance to affect this community.”

What they’re talking about is an unauthorized plan for One Charlestown that Mintz and other volunteers drew up last year after extensive community meetings that they held on their own initiative. After listening close to people at those meetings, Mintz came up with the consensus of the community.

Now, that plan has been tweaked even more, and is gaining ground as the designated developer, Corcoran/Sun Cal is in a process of reformulating its development team and its plan. The original plan from the developer has been thrown out, leaving only the community plan for the community to talk about.

That plan will also be part of a City Council hearing called for by Councilor Lydia Edwards, who has pledged to examine all options to include the Community Consensus plan.

One of the hallmarks of Mintz’s drawings are preserving the “cluster” buildings from Polk Street to Tufts Street and adding two new floors to those brick buildings.

Mintz said he did the same thing in the Corcoran redevelopment of Harbor Point in the 1980s – a project often pointed to by Corcoran as a model for One Charlestown.

For Mintz, he said the key to that is the community wanted to build community, and he said cluster housing with courtyards is the best way to do it.

“I don’t save them because I like saving old buildings,” he said. “What it shows is why these clusters are unique…There are good things in the Corcoran plan and I don’t disparage them at all…If we try to fit 3,200 units between Polk and Decatur you can’t save the buildings because you need the density…So, they automatically determined to demolish the buildings. What we’ve determined is to save the buildings that have cluster courtyards. They are very unique and are the superior type of housing the country.”

Valle said she is a fan of the cluster because it creates courtyards and it also creates front doors with yards, back porches and community space. With everyone able to go outside and see one another, they will automatically create a social fabric and a new community. Without that space, she said, people in the community meetings have said they would likely be staying in their unit all the time.

“It really happens and it forms organically,” she said. “It’s the natural thing to do when they see one another.”

The remainder of the plan uses new construction along Bunker Hill Street and on other sites in the development – including a large elderly housing building at the corner of Medford Street and Decatur. It also leans heavily on an innovative plan to put housing on City-owned, MassPort leased, property along the northern edge of the Little Mystic Channel – known locally as Montego Bay. The waterfront housing on what is now vacant parking lots would likely be able to reduce the density of the development substantially.

While the former Corcoran plan had 116 units per acre, the Community plan calls for 67 units per acre – far less dense. It also calls for 2,000 units – which includes the replacement of 1,110 public housing units. That is all accomplished in buildings that are five, six and eight-stories high.

Other highlights include:

•putting large retail offerings under the Mystic/Tobin Bridge – where the Navy Yard, the new development and the greater Town could be connected with things like an urban food market and larger retail providers.

•An outdoor Farmer’s Market as an extension to the current one on Main Street.

•Community space for things like Harvest on Vine.

•A three-acre park that includes a unique knoll, or hill, that commemorates a Battle of Bunker Hill landmark where the Colonists fought off the British when they landed.

•A brand new, fenced-in dog park on Vine Street.

•A possibility to cooperate with the owner to use the former church on Vine Street as a performing arts and community center.

•making Walford Way a bicycle and pedestrian green space “spine” that runs the length of the development from Polk Street to Decatur.

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