By Adam Swift
The future of Franklin Park, one of Boston’s open space and recreational jewels, took center stage at Mayor Michelle Wu’s State of the City address at MGM Music Hall on Tuesday night.
Wu also highlighted new initiatives to house families, expand homeownership, and plan for a green and growing city during her second annual address. She outlined partnerships with employers, higher education, and cultural institutions she said will transform public schools and BPS athletics and expand opportunities for students and families from pre-K to college, including summer jobs and unprecedented access to spaces for learning and curiosity.
“Last summer, Boston scored a huge goal: landing the National Women’s Soccer League’s newest franchise in 2026,” said Wu.
With the city’s partners at Boston Unity Soccer Group, Wu said the city is excited to renovate the historic White Stadium at Franklin Park into the first sports venue in the country that will co-house a pro sports team and a public school athletics program.
“Our students will have a world-class grass field, eight-lane track, brand new locker rooms, and conditioning and study spaces to call home,” said Wu. “We’ll also create a new booster fund for BPS athletics to cover expenses for uniforms, extra equipment, and dedicated transportation.”
Wu noted that the plans for a revitalized Franklin Park extend beyond bringing a professional soccer team to a renovated White Stadium.
“For my family and many others, there is no more magical place in the city, with its historic stone bridges; wooded trails; and beloved community spaces,” said Wu. “But our biggest park has suffered from decades of disinvestment.”
This year, the mayor said the city will act on recommendations of the Franklin Park Coalition and community members to begin restoring Franklin Park to its fullest potential.
The city will hire a park administrator and six new maintenance staff, bringing dedicated park staffing to its highest level in over 50 years, Wu said. In addition, she said the city will begin the community process to reimagine and invest in a home of the Elma Lewis Playhouse.
“Every young person deserves to grow up in a city with wide open spaces that coax our legs into running – that remind us to breathe deep and look up at the sky,” said Wu.
Rickie Thompson, the President of the Franklin Park Coalition, said her organization is thrilled to celebrate the mayor’s significant new investments in Franklin Park.
“The Coalition has been advocating for renovations and additional staffing for a significant time,” said Thompson. “We’re very grateful that Mayor Wu is responsive to these requests and will work to update this critical resource that has been neglected for too long.”
Jennifer Epstein, the controlling partner of Boston Unity Soccer, applauded Wu’s vision and the partnership to revitalize White Stadium.
“The transformation of the stadium into a world-class sports facility presents an incredible opportunity for BPS student-athletes, the communities around the park, and our soccer club,” said Epstein. “We are building our team for Boston and the diverse communities represented here, and we thank the City for its leadership. Working together with the City and members of the community, we look forward to delivering a reimagined White Stadium that enhances our city and contributes positively to the vibrancy and activation of beloved Franklin Park.”
Throughout Wu’s address, there was a focus on housing, education, and the future for young people in the city.
“Time and again, we have proven the future is ours to shape,” said Wu. “And day by day, we’re following through on Boston’s promise to be a green and growing City for everyone. As a mom—and a BPS parent—I know that to truly be the best City for every family, we have to give our young people the world: in the classroom, in community, in every corner of our City.”
Wu announced that the City will eliminate barriers to building accessory dwelling units (ADUs) this year by changing zoning to make these small homes as-of-right citywide. The ADU program allows owner occupants to create smaller, independent units inside their homes or in their yards.
The mayor also announced plans to identify locations for nearly 3,000 new, modern, energy-efficient public housing units that will be built over the next decade, which she said will be the first new net public housing units built in Boston in more than 40 years.
“From Chinatown to West Roxbury, public housing makes it possible for so many or our seniors, and veterans, and residents with disabilities to stay in our city, and for so many of our young people to grow up here – including two of our newest city councilors,” said Wu.
Across the city, Wu said too many families are getting displaced when their apartment buildings are scooped up by private investors.
“We’re launching a fund to make these buildings permanently affordable – doubling down on our success last year keeping 114 families in their homes in East Boston,” said Wu. “This year, we will deploy the fund to protect 400 more families citywide.”
For students, Wu said several new partnerships with higher education institutions will ensure that BPS high school students have access to early college and career pathways.
Bunker Hill Community Community College (BHCC) will broaden its partnership with Charlestown High School by offering every student the opportunity to take college courses either through dual enrollment or early college pathways in business, technology, and health.
In September, BHCC and Charlestown High School will launch the City’s second Year 13 program, which provides a full year of free college courses to Charlestown graduates. Roxbury Community College will partner with Boston International Newcomers Academy (BINCA), the Margarita Muñiz Academy, and English High School to launch the first early college incubator designed specifically for multilingual students.
Mass General Brigham will deepen its partnership with the Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers to ensure Boston’s healthcare professions reflect the community, Wu said.
Wu also announced that Boston Public Schools has signed an agreement with UMass Boston and Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco to transform the BCLA-McCormack High School into the district’s first University-Assisted Community Hub School.
The mayor also introduced a new program to help students and their families continue their education outside the walls of the school and some of the city’s most famous institutions.
Starting in February 2024, on the first and second Sundays of each month, every BPS student and up to three family members will get free admission to the Boston Children’s Museum, the Franklin Park Zoo, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Science, and the New England Aquarium. Families will show a BPS school ID or an electronic pass to gain admission.
The mayor also hit upon the city’s continuing commitment to being a green city.
“Last year, I promised to ban fossil fuels in new city buildings, and we did: Already, two new community centers and two libraries in progress will be fossil fuel free,” said Wu. “And this year, we will introduce zero net carbon zoning to make Boston the greenest city in the country.”
In her speech, Wu also highlighted several public safety issues.
The mayor said the city is collaborating on a public health-led approach at Mass & Cass that has removed encampments and helped hundreds of people find housing and begin a path to recovery; and partnering on a community-driven safety plan that has achieved the lowest levels of gun violence on record. Wu also noted that a new police contract sets a national precedent for community policing, including discipline reform, detail reform, and investing in officer education.