Columbia Point plan to get an airing

A draft plan to redevelop and transform the Columbia Point peninsula is drawing concern from a number of Savin Hill residents ahead of a community meeting this Saturday morning. The proposal would increase the area’s density and raise the height of potential buildings: four stories when farthest away from the JFK-UMass MBTA station and up to 20 stories when near the station.

The plan under consideration envisions turning Columbia Point into a “24-hour-a-day neighborhood” and creating 4,300 residential units.
Doreen Miller, a longtime Savin Hill resident who teaches English as a second language at Boston University, said the proposal would lead to an increase in traffic, noting that Morrissey Blvd. can barely handle rush hour traffic now. “I’m not against development,” Miller said. “I just think it’s totally out of character with the area and much too big for what the roads can handle here. And a lot of people feel that way.”

Members of the task force say they welcome comments from other community members and note that the plan is still fluid. The meeting is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. at the Corcoran Jennison community building at 270 Mt. Vernon St.

Over the last two years, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) has worked on the master plan with a task force made up of community members appointed by Mayor Thomas Menino.

“Everybody’s opinion counts,” said Don Walsh, a member of the task force and of the Columbia Point Savin Hill Civic Association. He said the task force had studied the 52-floor Prudential Center’s effect on the Back Bay and the South End.

Susan Elsbree, a BRA spokeswoman, said the proposed buildings for the area are appropriate. “This is a key transit-orientated development site,” she said, adding that “nothing is final … we continue to refine it based on community concerns.”

State Rep. Martin Walsh, a Savin Hill resident, said the draft master plan covers a “best case scenario” for developers and that “it’s a long way away before anybody puts a shovel in the ground.”

Citing the weak economy, Miller argued that developers – and future residents – would struggle to take on the projects on the residences: “Who’s going to buy these? The people aren’t there, the economy’s not there.”

Two miles from downtown Boston, the Columbia Point peninsula neighborhood is home to a number of institutions, including the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, the UMass-Boston campus,
the Massachusetts State Archives, Corcoran Jennison Companies, Boston College High School, the Bayside Expo Center, and a Sovereign Bank.

The draft plan calls for a “comprehensive” analysis of future traffic demands and redesigns of the roadways, particularly the perennially problematic Kosciuszko Circle, and the Interstate 93 access ramps.

“This is not something anyone is taking lightly,” said District 3 Councillor Maureen Feeney.

The proposal sees the redevelopment leading to 4,000 construction jobs and 5,000 permanent jobs, while annual property taxes could reach $23 million.

The draft plan also calls for more bicycle and pedestrian paths, and extending Wave St. from Savin Hill to and through the Boston Globe site on the western side of Morrissey Boulevard, should it be redeveloped. “People I’ve talked to on that, they’re horrified,” Miller said. “They like their dead ends and being on the little cove.”

The full draft plan is available at bostonredevelopmentauthority.org.