Letters to the Editor

To Boston Planning and Development: We Need Help

To the Editor,

I am confused, and I know others are confused also. There is no Master Plan for Charlestown because Plan Charlestown excludes all the large development sites being planned on 96 acres in our town.

It seems to me that every week I find a message from the Boston Planning and Development Agency in my in-box. Notices from the BPDA can also be found frequently in our local newspaper, the Charlestown Bridge. While I applaud the outreach, the messages, emails, are confusing. There is usually a brief narrative regarding one proposal after another, it portends the reader to try to distinguish one proposal from the other. It seems like a generic notice work in progress, and I often wonder how effective these notices are? 

I have always zeroed back to my favorite phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

More on that later.

As we all know, Charlestown is one square mile surrounded on three sides by water. There are close to 20,000 residents, according to the 2020 census. Figuring all the current proposals, the population of Charlestown will bump up to over 30,000.

Hidden in all the verbiage of the BPDA’s outreach messaging of these numerous proposals, we find drip by drip of just how many new residences / units to be built but, missing is the potential for how many new residents will be added to the current population. According to the Boston census, each unit of housing has 2.3 persons on average living in one unit. And as an aside, there are 14,000 residents per square mile in Boston, Charlestown at 20,000. Charlestown currently is one of the densest neighborhoods in Boston. 

At a recent open house for a large development proposal here in Charlestown, the descriptions of the buildings portrayed how much square footage would be allocated for residential space. I, with an interest in building and density had no idea how many units would be built? How is that for messaging to educate the public on such an important issue? Are we left to figure that out for ourselves? Or does the developer prefer us not to know the real impacts in this community?

At this same open house, the presenter when asked about the high number of units to be built, said in essence, the buildings would be “vertical.” It gave me pause to wonder if the buildings are vertical, does that make the number of units okay as opposed to being horizontal? In my humble mind, either way we will experience an increase in density and quality of life here in Charlestown.

The One Mystic proposal does give us the correct number of units to be built, but realistically, there is the possibility of doubling the number of residents that would impact our community. 

This is important to know as we struggle with high density already.

There are currently 96 acres with 25 million square feet of proposals before the BPDA. [This is equivalent to 12.5 John Hancock Towers to build in our one square mile community. Is everybody aware of all the proposals? I, myself have trouble keeping up with where they are located, how tall are the buildings, how many units, etc. How much open green space, climate resilient, infrastructure, schools, affordable housing, transportation, is entwined in this equation?

I suggest to the BPDA to do the right thing and take out a full- page ad in our local newspaper. A map of Charlestown should be as large as the page and please plot out all recent, latest, and new proposals. Tell us where these are located, number of units, other retail / lab building plans, green space, parking spots, etc. The community is deserving of this information and should have an idea of what Charlestown will look like now and for future generations.

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” We need help to understand, comprehend, and digest in an appropriate manner just what is going on with all the building in Charlestown?

All we are asking is for a simple map / picture / with simple, facts plotted out to get a better picture of a Charlestown nearing 30,000 residents. 

We deserve some straight answers and not a drip by drip, process that no one can get a handle on.

Ann Kelleher

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