The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) held a community meeting on June 24 to discuss with the community the mitigation benefits planned as part of the Designated Port Area and Little Mystic sites.
Reay Pannesi, Senior Real Estate Development Officer at the BPDA, explained that the Little 150,000 square foot Mystic Parcel is owned by the BPDA and leased to MassPort, and is a small portion of the Autoport, the rest of which is owned by Massport.
She said that the BPDA “negotiated some community projects with Massport in exchange for an extension of the lease.”
Pannesi said that the BPDA heard various desired from the community including to improve bike and pedestrian safety with the addition of crosswalks, more lighting, and more traffic signals, as well as improvements to the Sprouts community garden and the boat ramp and picnic areas. Pannesi said that people also wanted the Massport rail line to include walking and biking, and to improve the connections to Barry Park, the Navy Yard, the Harborwalk, and Chelsea Street.
The various proposed project areas include: a Barry Field/Harborwalk connector, a new community path, improvements to the Moran Annex and Sprouts Garden, as well as the Ryan Playground and the Chelsea St. and Terminal Street intersection, which was where a pedestrian was struck by a vehicle and killed.
The Barry Field Connector is proposed to be a “connection from Chelsea Street to Barry Field, accounting for the steep grade change,” according to the BPDA, and Pannesi said that “Massport is fully funding this great amenity.”
The railing that currently exists at Chelsea Street will open up to be accessible by pedestrians, and there will be both stairs and an accessible ramp. She said that construction is expected to begin in late July, and will be complete before the end of the year.
She said this project “improves public safety greatly” by “reducing potential conflict points between Harborwalk users and truck traffic traveling to and from the designated port.”
It also brings the number of pedestrian crossings from three down to one, making it safer for pedestrians to cross at one specific area and “shrinks the distance that pedestrians and cyclists travel along the Chelsea St. corridor,” Pannesi said.
She said that improvements for the Little Mystic Parcel are being led by the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA), and there are talks of possibly creating a bigger project.
Stefanie Seskin from the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) then talked about the proposed Medford Street Path, as there is “potential for great walking and biking on this side of Charlestown.” She said that this project would offer a “complete connection from north to south on this edge,” and this could work in conjunction with the One Charlestown project for “improving bicycling conditions on Medford St.”
Other benefits from this include free salt for Charlestown residents from the salt pile, as well as a scholarship for students in Charlestown with a preference for those who are seeking technical education.
Additionally, Pannesi spoke about the “Good Neighbor” commitments from the Autoport, which include things like a one-time cleanup of the Little Mystic basin, repairing of potholes, panitng the fence, bench repairs, and trash and debris cleanup.
BTD is also studying the Chelsea/Terminal Street intersection, and data regarding Autoport traffic will be delivered to BTD.
Ashley Biggins of the Public Works Department said that the city is “planning on putting a pedestrian crossing here with a signal, and to sort of improve safety, especially since this project is going to be bringing more people to this area.”
Amber Christoffersen of the MyRWA, talked about the benefits for the Sprouts Garden and the Little Mystic Channel. She said that the Sprouts Garden is a nonprofit thst received a community garden grant from the Department of Neighborhood Development several years ago and have worked on the first phase of the construction of the garden.
The garden has also received funding from the Community Preservation Act which will help fund the second phase of construction that is set to begin in the fall.
For the Little Mystic Channel Park, she said that there is around 15 acres of open space and “right now, not a lot of trees, a lot of pavement, and a lot of deferred maintenance.” She added that there is “a lot of opportunity to improve these spaces.”
Christoffersen also talked about a survey conducted last year, where 333 people provided feedback about the spaces they use the most, which per the survey, were the Harborwalk paths and the fields. She said that the goal is to “look towards improving amenities and programming for other areas.”
The addition of trees and a “safe place to walk” is at the top of the list for the park.
She said that for this CPA funded-project, there will be public meetings and events to talk about the program and design alternatives this summer and fall, and then later in the fall into the spring, the design concept and the implementation plan will be presented to the public.
Several residents made comments or asked questions about the projects, including Dan Jaffe, who said he had concerns about the single walkway across Chelsea St., which he called a “dangerous” area. He said a dual entry way would make that area more safe for bikers and pedestrians.
Joanne Massaro asked how long the lease extension is, and Panessi responded by saying the extension runs from Jan. 1, 2020 to June 30, 2026. She said there are “five five year options to extend after that,” and the BPDA will decide on the extensions with input from the community when the time comes.
Massaro also wanted to know about plans for climate resiliency from Massport specifically, as she said she is on the community advisory board for this project but said they have not heard any plans yet.
The team told Massaro that they have been working on climate resiliency plans and can follow up with more specific information, but they were not able to share it at the meeting.
Johanna Hynes asked about the water quality in the Little Mystic Channel, as she said she sees a lot of trash in the water.
Christoffersen said that the “water quality is really great,” and it has received an “A” rating, as it is “tied to the tidal part of the mystic.” She said that there are some sediments in the water which would pose concerns for swimming, but boating is perfectly safe in the water.
Other comments were also made about making Charlestown a historic district, a conversation that has come up a lot in the neighborhood recently, and a brief discussion was also had about the Designated Port Area designation of the Little Mystic Parcel and what that means for how it us used.
“This was a pretty complicated project and we do want to thank everyone who was involved,” said Jay Ruggiero of the BPDA.