By Michael Coughlin Jr.
During its monthly meeting on Monday, the Jamaica Pond Association (JPA) discussed getting Centre/South Streetscape improvements — that date back to 2009 — back on track.
Kevin Moloney, a member of the JPA Board and the leader of the discussion, went through some background on streetscape improvements in the area, reading from old news stories published in the Gazette.
Moloney first referenced an article from July 2015 written by Peter Shanley, which detailed the city’s improvement plan for Centre and South Streets, which began back in 2009.
In part, Shanley’s story detailed how the improvements at the time were slated to be part of the Jamaica Plain/South/Hyde/Jackson Design Projects. According to the article, the projects would bring more pedestrian-friendly crosswalks and sidewalks, traffic flow improvements, and green space.
Moreover, Shanley’s article indicated that the projects would “stretch along Centre Street from Jackson Square to Hyde Square to Monument Square, then down South Street to Forest Hills.”
Moloney continued to go through several stories from the Gazette’s archives from 2017 and 2018, describing items such as public meetings and a letter signed by several civic groups about the streetscape improvements.
Then, before COVID-19, Moloney indicated there was some activity regarding this issue with meetings and even preliminary drawings prepared.
However, fast forward to the end of 2023, the JPA still seems to be looking for streetscape improvements.
“The city transportation department seems to be moving heaven and earth to put bicycle tracks all over the place, but they’ve done nothing to carry out the work that had started back in 2009 and 2011 to improve the streetscape from Hyde Square to Forest Hills,” said Moloney.
“They did the improvements from Jackson Square to Hyde Square. Hyde Square’s very different today than it was some years ago, but that’s where it stopped, and the plan was to go from a renewed Hyde Square all the way to Forest Hills, but they’ve really dropped the ball.”
Additionally, Moloney explained that he brought the topic up in an effort to receive guidance on the issue, and several attendees gave their thoughts.
Another JPA Board Member, Franklyn Salimbene, suggested asking Melissa Beltran, Jamaica Plain’s Neighborhood Liaison, to bring the issue to Mayor Michelle Wu.
“Centre Street really does need a facelift, no question about it, and so it’s important, I think, to bring this right to the Mayor’s attention,” said Salimbene.
Beltran, who was in attendance at the meeting, offered to meet with attendees and gather more insight into their views.
In addition to bringing this issue before Wu, Salimbene also thought contacting District 6 City Councilor-Elect Ben Weber would be a good idea.
As the conversation continued, some other JPA Members made their voices heard. Kay Mathew, the JPA’s Chair, commented on the community engagement process overall in the city.
“I’ve gotten the sense that it’s kind of a citywide issue where citizens are feeling like — not that they’re not being heard, but nothing happens after they’re being heard,” said Mathew.
Another attendee spoke about wanting seating on Centre Street for folks who might not get around as easily.
“When this whole process started, I was much younger and was able to walk anywhere I needed to go. Now I’m one of the white-haired people, usually ladies, that you see going down Centre Street slowly with canes,” they said.
“One of the things I would look for is going to be a bench or two, a place to sit, and I’ve had friends who tap, tap, tap along also express the same thing,” they added.
To close out the conversation, Moloney believed that neighborhood organizations should come together similarly to what the groups did several years ago when they signed a letter about the issue, and he was seemingly given the green light to reach out to other groups.
With all this being said, there could be some light at the end of the tunnel for those looking for improvements.
In response to a Gazette inquiry about the topic, a spokesperson from the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) indicated that “the process to make improvements on Centre and South Streets from Hyde Square to Forest Hills” is relaunching next year with “just over $500,000 in the City’s budget allocated for the design work.”
“The focus of the project will be to improve safety in the corridor as well as support bus priority and bike lanes. The City will work hand in hand with local businesses and residents to bring improvements to the corridor. BTD will announce more details about the community process early next year,” per the spokesperson.