Guest Op-Ed: BPDA Prioritizes Charlestown Community Feedback in Neighborhood Planning Process

(Ed. Note: The following op-ed was submitted by the Boston Planning and Development Agency.)

Under the leadership of Arthur Jemison, Mayor Michelle Wu’s recently appointed Chief of Planning for the City of Boston, the Boston Planning & Development Agency is entering its next phase of PLAN: Charlestown. This summer, staff held a listening tour to receive feedback from the Charlestown community on draft scenarios which addressed transportation, open space, land use, and density. The listening tour included seven listening sessions, engagements at various community events, and a Pint With a Planner event at the Tradesman restaurant in August. Following the incorporation of this feedback into a new hybrid scenario on what the future of the neighborhood could look like, the BPDA will conduct another round of engagements to receive additional community input.

The BPDA plans to present the hybrid scenario to the community before the end of the year, at which time the public will be able to comment once again and see how their input from the listening tour and the various surveys they filled out has been incorporated. The survey topics for the initial draft scenarios included streets, bike lanes, shuttle buses, parks, sportsfields, climate, land use, density, and feedback on the PLAN: Charlestown web page. Of those topics, parks received the most survey responses, with more than 150 responses, followed by land use, and density. Transportation improvements and 10-13 acres of new proposed open spaces were presented in the scenarios, and have received both positive and constructive feedback.

PLAN: Charlestown is a comprehensive planning initiative and includes the entire Charlestown neighborhood geography. The plan seeks to preserve historic Charlestown while prioritizing resiliency, affordability and equity. It builds upon and is informed by previous planning work in the neighborhood – all past Navy Yard plans and major project approvals such as Hood Park and the Bunker Hill Housing Redevelopment Project – in order to look at Charlestown in a holistic way. The planning process will also include a comprehensive transportation impact analysis for the entire neighborhood.

Chief Jemison is actively engaging developers of active projects under review, and sharing the message that proposals are expected to align with the planning priorities of the Wu Administration. As an agency, the BPDA is committed to Mayor Wu’s vision for people-centric, planning-led development. Chief Jemison recently met with developers who have current project proposals in Charlestown, and let them know he expects them to align their projects with the emerging recommendations from the PLAN: Charlestown process. This work will enable the BPDA to advance planning-led development review decisions.

In the upcoming plan phases, BPDA staff will prioritize receiving feedback on urban design guidelines for the historic parts of the neighborhood, while also conducting a neighborhood-wide needs analysis. The needs analysis will look at the unmet demand for neighborhood amenities and services that exist today, and the projected demands from forthcoming permitted projects, such as the Bunker Hill Housing Redevelopment. PLAN: Charlestown is working in consultation with the Boston Parks Department, Boston Landmarks Commission, Boston Transportation Department, Boston Public Schools, Boston Water and Sewer Commission, Boston Center for Youth and Families, Age Strong, and others who deliver key city services. While the BPDA does not directly manage strategic planning for those departments and agencies, this process is an opportunity to analyze and review any needs that are unmet in the community so the BPDA can make recommendations on how to better serve residents.

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