CAC supports Jackson Commons with reservations

March 19, 2010
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Regarding “Mixed-use plan gets mostly good reviews” (JP Gazette, March 5): I fear your readers may have gotten the impression that concerns raised at the Jackson Square Site II NPC community meeting about Jackson Commons were somehow a minority view from the perspective of the Jackson Square Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) and that support for the project is unclear.

Ten of 11 CAC board members have since written a letter in support of the project, but also raised concerns similar to those raised at the Boston Redevelopment Authority-sponsored community meeting on Feb. 25.

There are some CAC members who believe the housing affordability initiatives at Jackson Commons are appropriate, but far more think affordability should be balanced, given the existing housing stock in the area. In e-mail communications, a majority of CAC members voiced their belief that affordable homeownership that was originally part of the Jackson Commons plan and now is not should still be part of the plan, backed by real commitment.

The CAC also supports services in the form of youth and workforce development. Plans called for those services to be housed in the youth and family center that has now been put on hold. Some of this programming will take place at Jackson Commons, but at the expense of retail space that would have been complementary to retail across the street at 270 Centre St. There are also market-rate housing opportunities at 270 Centre, while none exist at Jackson Commons. We described this concern in the CAC letter of support as a rift between haves and have-nots—one that no well-intentioned infrastructure project to dress up a median can undo.

Roxbury is predominantly a neighborhood of color. And like many neighborhoods of color, it suffers from a lack of business investment and opportunities for affordable homeownership. We’ve got to acknowledge that along with services, education advocacy and workforce development, homes and businesses are just as critical to building a neighborhood and that these options must be available to Roxbury residents as well.

We have an obligation to make whole the parts of a neighborhood we mistakenly planned to put a highway through, by restoring those things that were upended in the process. Apartment buildings, homes, business or other institutions taken in that process, in totality, contributed to a vibrant, functioning neighborhood. To get that neighborhood fabric back, homes and businesses that are affordable at Jackson Commons must be part of the mix.

Rodney Singleton
Roxbury

The writer is chairman of the Jackson Square Citizens Advisory Committee.

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