S. Huntington ‘corridor plan’ in the works

By John Ruch and Rebeca Oliveira, Gazette Staff

S. HUNTINGTON—Following months of community outcry and a recent statement of support by Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) Director Peter Meade, the BRA started to create a “corridor plan” for the S. Huntington Avenue area last week.

The “corridor plan” for the area will outline parameters for population density, neighborhood retail and transportation for the area and is being headed by BRA Senior Planner Marie Mercurio, BRA spokesperson Susan Elsbree told the Gazette.

“She’s very talented. She’ll bring a lot to bear,” Elsbree said. “I think it’s going to be useful for developers going forward, for the neighborhood, for the whole city.”

The BRA uses formal Master Plans in many contexts throughout the city, but this “lowercase master plan” is being created especially for the S. Huntington area because of high community demand.

“For months now, I’ve been saying we need a master plan for the S. Huntington area. I’m heartened to see things are moving in that direction. I hope the community voice is heard throughout the process,” City Councilor Matt O’Malley told the Gazette this week.

Meade backed the creation of a S. Huntington Avenue master plan in an exclusive Gazette interview held Oct. 11 at El Oriental de Cuba restaurant in Hyde Square.

Asked whether there should be a BRA-created master plan for S. Huntington, as called for by many community members amid rapid redevelopment there, Meade replied, “Yes.”

“As new projects come on, we need to have a more complete understanding of how they’re integrated into the neighborhood and what adjustments need to be made,” he said, likening the idea the Boston Harbor area master plan.

Meade said he does not have a particular master plan process in mind for S. Huntington. He simply said some kind of a master plan is a good idea, and BRA staff members can “figure out the details” of how to do it.

The goal would be to get the full picture of how the area functions. “I really rely on people in the community” for that input, Meade said.

The idea for a master plan was first proposed following the announcements, in quick succession, of two 200-unit housing developments at 105A and 161 South Huntington Ave. this spring.

Meade also said he is aware of the “great deal of strong opinions” about two redevelopment proposals for the former Blessed Sacrament Church campus in Hyde Square.

“It’s not just a development,” but also a former church where people marked significant personal events such as weddings and funerals, he noted.

While the BRA’s role at the church site is limited pending the filing of official plans, Meade indicated that community opinion will inform the BRA’s response.

Meade also commented on the recent MBTA service cuts, which included an end to weekend Green Line streetcar service on S. Huntington just as massive development begins and a new hotel opened.

“We will rue the day we shut down any part of the Green Line,” he said, citing public transit as a key factor in the city’s economy.

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