As planning processes go, few have been more anticipated than the Charlestown effort that will begin this month, as the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) announced it would hold the first PLAN Charlestown meeting in an open house format on Jan. 30.
The community has been rallying for a master plan or planning process since earlier this year, battling for the naming of it, what would be included and the boundaries of the effort. Most of this past fall was spent by the community and the BPDA preparing for the process, and defining what it would be.
Those leading the effort in the community – known as the 02129 Neighborhood Alliance – said they were happy with the parameters released late last week.
“As far as we can tell, it seems the community got everything we talked about and asked for,” said Amanda Zettel, president of the Charlestown Preservation. “Everything they articulated to be included in the study is exactly what the community said we needed protections for. They also said they are included Boston Public Schools and to an extent that BPS has never been involved in a planning process. That’s important.”
Said Julie Hall, president of the Charlestown Historical Society, “We feel validated. It doesn’t mean our work is done. We are not naïve and know we have to continue to hold them accountable. We will do that. The big thing right now is they have designed this as a plan for the entire physical boundary of Charlestown.”
BPDA Director Brian Golden said they are excited to begin the planning process and will work to preserve the community and focus on the future of Charlestown as well.
“Under Mayor Walsh’s leadership we have seen how community planning can guide inclusive growth while preserving the character of our neighborhoods and we are excited to do the same in Charlestown,” said Golden. “When we launched PLAN: Charlestown last year, BPDA staff began meeting with the community in order to develop a better sense of what the strategic plan will cover. With a shared vision in mind, we are ready to kick-off the next phase of the study and continue working with the community to plan together for the future of the neighborhood.”
According to the goals posted on the new PLAN Charlestown website, the mission is to create a shared vision for the future of the neighborhood. Community discussions are to focus on future land use, current development, as well as looking at strategies to enhance the existing community and preserve its historic assets.
The goals also state it will be much more comprehensive than other processes, as it will coordinate transportation, parks and open space, climate resilience, education and affordable housing.
There are several other caveats to the process that Zettel and Hall were pleased to see, such as a moratorium on developing City- and BPDA-owned parcels. That means that during the planning process, development will not go forward on the Bunker Hill Community College parking lots – which will be a cornerstone piece of the planning. It also prevents any early action from being taken new parcels that will be created in Sullivan Square during the Rutherford Avenue re-design in a few years. It does not, however, stop private development or projects already in the pipeline, such as Bunker Hill housing development.
Another part is that planners from Cambridge and Somerville will participate in order to coordinate across City lines.
“What happens in those cities affects us and what we do will affect them,” said Zettel. “It’s nice to have them in the conversation. There will also be planners from Boston Transportation and Boston Public Schools in the room.”
Both said they are also excited about the strength of the 02129 Alliance, which has grown over the months and is becoming more representative of the entire community.
“It’s really become a force and the organization is really diverse and there is a momentum there we are happy to see,” said Hall.
The first PLAN Charlestown Open House will take place on Jan. 30, 6:30 p.m., in the Warren Prescott School Cafeteria (use entrance adjacent to playground, off Pearl Street).