Update: June 8th, 2017

Senator Brownsberger and Representative Moran sent a letter to the Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash and the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton regarding the potential development of this parcel.  A copy of the letter can be viewed here.

On April 5, Senator Will Brownsberger and Representative Mike Moran co-hosted a community meeting regarding the future of a land parcel on Birmingham Parkway in Brighton owned by the Department of Conservation & Recreation. Attendees weighed-in on possible directions, including the potential for development of affordable housing, improvement of roadways and infrastructure, and preservation of open space.

Attendees identified several overarching goals they hope will help inform future discussions of possibilities, including:

  • Consideration of the parcel as a cohesive whole in developing a comprehensive, long-term plan for the communities of Allston/Brighton and Greater Boston region. While this could include identifying additional areas for improvement, expanding the scope of the conversation surrounding the Birmingham Parkway parcel was a clear priority, as was determining best practices for community mobilization and effective advocacy.
  • Provide local communities with a meaningful voice and significant role in any future development process. Although this meeting was just the first step in beginning a conversation surrounding future possibilities for the parcel, attendees value a transparent, resident-driven process. Thorough consideration of potential project specifics and prioritization of public feedback processes will be critical to building community support.
  • While attendees shared differing visions for the future of the parcel, a consensus was reached regarding our shared values – recognition of overcrowding and the need for more affordable housing, and an appreciation for the preservation of open space.

Many attendees emphasized the need for more affordable housing, as the shortage of affordable options has resulted in persistent overcrowding, lengthy wait lists, and high costs that force residents to move or find roommates. Thoughts included:

  • Flipping the traditional “affordable housing script,” by utilizing creative legislative approaches to affordability to move beyond the legal minimum of required affordable units in new developments, as outlined in Chapter 40B, and by incorporating affordable units into a wider variety of dwelling types. Attendees also voiced support for redefining “affordable,” given concerns the area median income does not reflect what is truly affordable for local residents.
  • Creating more opportunities for affordable homeownership.
  • Maintaining diversity in neighborhoods by addressing racial and class disparities in access to affordable housing options, and working towards true economic diversity by creating housing opportunities that meet the needs of residents at every income level.
  • Prioritizing local connections by working directly with the Allston-Brighton Community Development Corporation.

Attendees raised several concerns related to the possibility of future development proposals, including:

  • Repercussions local residents may experience related to zoning variances, which have historically been afforded to city developers, in an area many feel is already overbuilt.
  • The cost of private developers
  • The need to gather additional information about the status of adjacent in-progress developments along Birmingham Parkway, which may have implications for the future of the parcel.
  • Local colleges and universities should create more on-campus student housing to alleviate demand.
  • Increased development on Birmingham Parkway could spur cross-river proposals in Watertown.
  • The need to protect vulnerable residents’ access to affordable housing, including people with disabilities, seniors, Section 8 holders, and other individuals who utilize housing vouchers.

Viewing the parcel as an “island between major roadways,” attendees stressed the importance of upgrading local infrastructure to make the Birmingham Parkway friendlier to vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists, in addition to improving its connections to other neighborhoods through enhanced public transportation. Thoughts included:

  • Narrowing of Birmingham Parkway
  • Improving network of sidewalks and crosswalks
  • Mitigating congestion
  • Increasing access to the Charles River
  • Seasonal openings of Birmingham Parkway to pedestrians and cyclists
  • Transit Signal Priority

Attendees also highlighted the need to preserve open, green spaces due to increasing local development. Thoughts included:

  • Preserving bocce and horseshoe courts located on parcel and improving maintenance of existing green space
  • Reducing land takings for housing, which could set precedent for future high-rise developments
  • Prioritizing repair and reopening of the public pool located on N. Beacon Street
  • Incorporating plans for a playground, skate park, or community garden in future development proposals
  • Mitigating pollution from the Pike

Please feel free to continue this discussion of possibilities by adding your thoughts or concerns related to the Birmingham Parkway parcel by commenting below, or by contacting Senator Brownsberger directly, at william.brownsberger@masenate.gov.

6 replies on “RECAP: Community Discussion on Birmingham Pkwy Possibilities”

  1. I work right around the corner from that parcel, and while I do often feel like that spot is “wasted space,” since it’s kind of hidden and doesn’t really get used as “available green space” (which is definitely something that should be encouraged).

    All due respect to the bocce boards and the people who enjoy them, but it’s a small group of people who use them and they generally sit empty.

    That said, I’m suspect that it’s an ideal location for housing. I honestly don’t know the answer, but one of the bullets above I completely agree with…you need to look at this wholistically with all of the other development going on in that area. Keep in mind, that no more than a 1/4 mile a huge apartment complex is being built at the intersection of Western Ave and Birmingham Pkwy, across from the abandoned state farmhouse…which is a whole other point of discussion.

    If this area has a huge supply of resources to live and work, and it becomes a destination per se then I applaud it. That would be an incredible story to tell.

    But a wholistic look at the ENTIRE area, which includes the Arsenal, Brighton Landing, the Harvard construction at North Harvard and Western, the abandoned building across from IHOP at Parsons and Birmingham needs to happen. Just deciding whether this lot gets developed in isolation is just asking for trouble.

  2. I would wholeheartedly support housing on this site. However, currently the Birmingham Parcel site is functionally an island, cut off by steep grades, and the roads and highways that surround it. I would ask that any new development be required to provide multiple and safe pedestrian connections from the site to the river to the north and to the neighborhoods to the south and west. The stretch of SFR is particularly dangerous with no ped or bicycle crossings and barely a sidewalk. Additionally, I think any development should be required to improve the N. Beacon and Parsons Street tunnels to make safer and friendlier pedestrian/bicycle connections under the Pike.

  3. I support the idea of housing here, but in the context of a comprehensive plan for this entire “island” of land between Soldiers Field Rd and Birmingham Parkway. The strip mall type development and large amount of space dedicated to surface parking is very anti-urban and inappropriate for Boston. There is an opportunity to reconnect this area to the Charles River and to other parts of Brighton much better, particularly for walking and biking. Any development that takes place here should be people oriented, with parking hidden underneath or behind buildings. There should be plentiful trees and open/green space for people as well. Streets should have wide sidewalks and buildings should interface the sidewalks in a pedestrian-friendly way. Birmingham Parkway itself should be right-sized, with one lane each direction, bike lanes, and sidewalks. Soldiers Field Rd should also be made more pedestrian friendly, with more opportunities to cross.

  4. Hi. I am currently a resident of Allston for over 30 years. We need more affordable housing in Allston because we do not have a lot of them and the waitlist are is overwhelmingly. In my current situation my house is very over crowded because my grandchildren and daughter and her husband are all live with me in a 2 bedroom apartment. We need more housing and affordable please.

  5. Yes Yes Yes!!!! More affordable housing please!! We are around so many business and colleges and people are forgetting it’s a good neighborhood to raise families. It’s been a pleasure raising my sons here and wish they would be close to home, but unfortunately they can not afford to live here. Now a days prices are going up and families are struggling to pay market rent. Having 2-3 jobs just to be able to pay the rent. What about the kids? They need parents as well.

  6. More affordable housing for working class people. Single older people need to have a place to live too.

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