The discussion of alternative sites for health care and housing services proposed for the Shattuck Campus site has been a topic of conversation among residents who live in the communities surrounding Franklin Park, and what should be done with the site has also been a point of contention, as some agree with the state’s plan, and others do not.
With plans for the hospital to move to the South End’s East Newton Pavilion, the state has put forward a Request for Proposals (RFP) for plans to use the Shattuck site for health and behavioral services and create supportive housing.
Other organizations and residents, however, are calling for the 13 acre Shattuck Campus to be returned to Franklin Park as open space, and many have suggested the MBTA Arborway Yard as an alternative site for the supportive housing and services.
The Emerald Necklace Conservancy (ENC) is one of those organizations. ENC President Karen Mauney-Brodek wanted to make it clear that the organization absolutely supports these resources and services for the formerly homeless and those dealing with substance abuse, but the organization believes they should be sited elsewhere.
She said that “I wanted to be very clear that the Shattuck Hospital and the services it provides are essential to our city and the public.”
She said that “the Commonwealth of Massachusetts decided that the [hospital] building should be torn down and most of the services relocated to the South End well over a year ago.” She said that the state did not ask the community “what would you like to do with this public land?”
Mauney-Brodek said that while the state proposed using this land for supportive housing for the formerly homeless, it “is not proposing to provide any funding for that.”
According to the project page for the Shattuck Campus Redevelopment at Morton Street Proposal on the state’s website, at the beginning of 2020, the state finished a “vision planning process” for the site that lasted more than a year, and in December, a “Preliminary Project Proposal was approved by the Asset Management Board (AMB).”
The site reads, “The AMB reviews and approves proposed projects that involve the long-term lease of real estate assets held by state agencies, and enables a competitive disposition process (such as a Request for Proposals (RFP) process).”
The AMB on June 29 “voted on and approved a revised Final Project Proposal,” which can also be viewed on that site.
On a Frequently Asked Questions document on the project page, one of the FAQs is whether these services can be sited at the Arborway Yard.
The Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) stated as a response that “The Shattuck Campus is an important public health resource for the Commonwealth and it is the Commonwealth’s intention that the site continue to be used in a manner that is consistent with the statutory and deed use restrictions that require the site be used for public health purposes…” as has been stated at previous community meetings. “Furthermore, our discussions with the MBTA have indicated that the Arborway lot is not a viable option at this time for the foreseeable future. “
Several planning principles are also listed in this document, including “improve access to neighborhoods with public transit, bike and pedestrian options; increase green and open space,” among others.
“The Commonwealth is proposing building [supportive housing] on this fairly isolated property away from the Forest Hills T station, away from shops, away from work opportunities, away from housing of mixed incomes,” Mauney-Brodek said. “Today, we don’t build or isolate different types of housing. We build it in a more inclusive…environment.”
She added that the ENC believes that it is “extremely poor planning” that the state did not include other sites as part of its proposal.
“We took time with Northeastern [University] to evaluate other options,” she said, and “looked at other sites around the park which could serve community members.”
She also said that the parkland is much needed in Franklin Park, despite its large size.
“Almost 40 percent of what was originally open space has already been limited in one way or another, be it by cost or access or the maintenance yard, which takes up many acres of the park,” she said.
She said that through the work with Northeastern University, it was discovered that the Arborway Yard, which encompasses 18 acres of space, could be a contender to site these services.
She said that the existing building at 500 Arborway is “essentially abandoned.” She said there is a “huge area there, and we know that it’s really important that the MBTA move to electric buses…”
She said that an electric bus yard would provide several benefits, ranging from being “much more attractive” to the fact that electric buses can be parked underground.
“We believe that the Northeastern study shows us that we can accommodate a better, expanded, environmentally forward-thinking bus facility,” Mauney-Brodek said.
Mauney-Brodek said that currently, there are “definitely some important services at the Shattuck. Shelter services are key,” she added, and “I know that this is going to be a process over time and so we want to work with all parties to achieve the best things for the services and the community…”
She continued, “this is an important moment; we hope that again the radical idea that two state agencies work together could be realized for the benefit of the folks that the services could serve.”
Though DCAMM said in the FAQ document that planning to site these services at the Arborway Yard “would add significant delays the redevelopment and provision of these urgently needed services,” Mauney-Brodek said that the ENC believes “the time frame is the same as the one the state is providing” to build the housing and services on the Arborway Yard site rather than at Franklin Park.
She also urged the mayoral candidates to look over the RFP, adding that the ENC feels that the outreach was not “done as deeply” as it should have been. She said that while an advisory board was created, “they were not given an approval process. You will not see folks from Mattapan or Dorchester on that.” She said that more voices need to be included in the process.
Mauney-Brodek added that the “JP side of the park is more open and accessible than other sides,” which have more fencing and other barriers.
“This is another part of the park that has been impenetrable,” she said. “It’s important that questions get asked and the state be required to look at alternatives if they have the opportunity to do that.”