By Michael Coughlin Jr.
Earlier this week, the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council’s (JPNC) Arborway Yard subcommittee met to discuss a number of topics relating to the plans for the proposed Arborway Bus Maintenance Facility.
The proposed bus facility in the neighborhood would house a fleet of MBTA electric buses as part of an effort to have a fully electric bus fleet in 2040.
One of the big discussion points during the meeting surrounded design priorities for the proposed facility.
Carolyn Royce, a member of the JPNC’s Housing Committee, explained that previously, the subcommittee had come up with design priorities and that now would be the time to go into more detail and make other suggestions.
With the discussion open, one of the first big design priorities suggested is having a facility that is in scale.
“It’s got to relate to human scale and neighborhood scale; all the other things come secondary. It has to be a building that’s broken down in terms of the mass, and it has to relate to the people on the street,” said Gert Thorn, a member of the JPNC.
There was also a recommendation made by an attendee about engaging parks with the new facility, which connected with previous priority suggestions.
Specifically, the past priorities mentioned engaging with the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and incorporating the Southwest Corridor extension and pedestrian access into discussions with the MBTA.
Moreover, Sarah Freeman, a member of the JPNC’s Parks Committee, made two suggestions; one was from a resident who could not attend. That resident had the idea to landscape in a way that would make the facility appear smaller.
“If we’re in an area where we’re not used to 60-foot windowless walls, what if the land came up halfway or a third of the way? I’m not an architect, but that’s one way to reduce the perception without actually reducing the size of the structure,” said Freeman.
Freeman also thought it was prudent to think about access and egress at the facility. “Maybe it’s not our problem to solve, but I think we should be thinking about it.”
In addition to the discussion about design priorities, a few updates were given during the meeting.
One significant update was concerning the acres promised to the neighborhood for community use from a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the MBTA and the City of Boston signed over 20 years ago.
Per the MOU, the MBTA would transfer “no less” than eight acres of land on the Arborway Yard site to the city for community use. At the same time, the city-owned “pole yard” would be implemented into the Arborway Yard plan.
In recent plans, that pole yard has not been included in the Arborway Yard plan, meaning that the bus facility’s location would have to be adjusted, thus leaving less than eight acres for the community.
However, Allan Ihrer, in an update to the subcommittee, spoke about a conversation he had with State Representative Sam Montaño. Ihrer, who has been working on the Arborway Yard since 1998, said it sounded like there was a commitment to the eight acres. Though, he followed that up by saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
In terms of other updates, Susan Cibulsky, who is helping organize the subcommittee, mentioned that she reached out to the city’s Chief of Streets, Jascha Franklin-Hodge, Diana Fernandez, the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s Deputy Chief of Urban Design and Chris Osgood, a Senior Advisor for Infrastructure for Mayor Michelle Wu.
Through her correspondence, Cibulsky learned that an update for the subcommittee in early October is in the works. “The expectation is that they will come to our next meeting,” she said.
Cibulsky also mentioned that she had reached out to Alexandra Markiewicz, Deputy Director of Bus Modernization at the MBTA, about a potential update, but there were no significant updates.
If you would like to learn more about this whole process and connect with other members of the community, you can join a recently created Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/710491541120111/.