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 [email protected]