By Ryan Deto
Special to the Gazette
S. HUNTINGTON—The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) presented a first draft of its “corridor vision” for S. Huntington Avenue to a generally accepting community on Feb. 27 at the Curley K-8 School at 493 Centre St.
The BRA is conducting a “corridor study” to assess the future of the stretch of S. Huntington Avenue from Huntington Avenue to Perkins Street, part of which includes the Mission Hill/JP border. The area has the opportunity for multiple developments, including the “Serenity” project at 105A, which is currently under review, and the former Goddard House at 201, which just went up for sale.
The 30 residents attending the meeting expressed happiness to see a plan that would help beautify the corridor that some residents have described to BRA Jamaica Plain neighborhood planner Marie Mercurio as “bleak.” Also, most of the residents’ concerns about future projects were addressed, including six-story building height restrictions; access points to the Jamaicaway from S. Huntington; new parking restrictions; and implementing the City’s “Complete Streets” model to the road, which would redesign the street to have fair access to bikes, pedestrians and cars.
BRA chief planner Kairos Shen spoke optimistically at the meeting about carrying out those improvements due to money the BRA would negotiate from future developers.
“These projects usually just sit in the queue of public projects,” said Shen. “If we can get some private funding, it can make a lot happen.”
However, some requests will be more challenging for the BRA to accomplish.
Multiple residents spoke up to advocate for a Green Line extension of the E Line to Hyde Square, an idea recently pitched by the JP group the Arborway Committee.
BRA transportation manager Jim Fitzgerald listened intently, but stayed non-committal, especially with an MBTA official sitting in the audience.
“[The Green Line extension] is certainly a clear recommendation, but there would have to be trade-offs,” said Fitzgerald. “There is only so much you can fit”
Fitzgerald added that even if a Green Line extension to Hyde Square was accepted by the MBTA, it would take around a decade and a billion dollars to complete.
The other wall standing in the way of the community’s more ideal vision for S. Huntington is the literal brick wall the surrounds the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) headquarters and Angell Animal Medical Center.
In response to previous concerns several years ago, the wall surrounding the MSPCA property at 350 S. Huntington was altered. Openings with benches were added to the corners sitting on S. Huntington and barbed wire was removed in response to community outcry, but some residents still consider the wall an eyesore and said they would like to see more done.
“[The MSPCA] can see that the public is displeased with many aspects of the property such as the brick wall along Perkins and Day Streets, the front entrance not facing S. Huntington, and the sea of parking,” said Mercurio. “But, as a part of this corridor study, they are not obligated to change anything. The corridor study suggests future measures that they could take if they wanted to be better integrated with the community around them”
MSPCA-Angell spokesperson Rob Halpin emphasized the wall’s functions of animal safety and shielding neighbors from traffic noise as the main reasons the animal shelter has no plans to make changes to the wall.
“Our 24/7 animal hospital and accompanying shelter…requires us to have a safe and sturdy barrier that prevents animals from escaping from our property and darting into traffic,” said Halpin in a written statement to the Gazette. “In public hearings eight to 10 years ago, most of our neighbors told us to maintain the wall for that reason.”
The BRA expects to complete one more draft of the study, which will be shown to the community at another meeting tentatively planned for March 22. The study could go before the BRA board for approval in April.
The BRA’s website for the study can be viewed at www.tinyurl.com/corridorstudy.