Master plan for Columbia Point published in draft form

City Councillor Maureen Feeney is raising questions on a draft plan released this week by city development officials to redevelop the Columbia Point peninsula. Feeney said the proposed density and proposed height of the buildings – four stories when furthest away from the JFK-UMass MBTA station and rising up to 20 stories when near the station – continue to be a concern.

“We still have work to do,” she said. “But we’re in a far better place than we were initially.”

Feeney also raised the prospect of funding the redevelopment project, which she said could take as long as a decade.

“In this [fiscal] environment, is this even realistic?” she asked.
The draft report notes that development of Columbia Point would lead to 4,000 year-round construction jobs and 5,000 permanent jobs. Annual property taxes could reach $23 million, with state income taxes potentially reaching an annual $18 million.

In a 17-month effort, the Boston Redevelopment Authority has been working together with a 15-member citizen task force appointed by Mayor Thomas Menino to develop a master plan for the area that houses a number of local institutions, including the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, the Massachusetts State Archives, Corcoran Jennison Companies, the Boston Globe, Boston College High School, the Bayside Expo Center, and the UMass-Boston campus. The campus is undergoing its own master planning process, which includes new academic buildings and, in the near future, dorms, to the chagrin of some community members. Corcoran Jennison is also attempting to figure out what to do with its space.

Also on the peninsula are St. Christopher’s Church, the Geiger Gibson Community Health Center, Phillips Family Hospitality, which includes the Phillips Old Colony House, and the Ramada Inn.

The draft plan, released this week, envisions Columbia Point as a “24-hour-a-day neighborhood” and three-quarters of the land being used for residences. That translates into 4,300 residential units.

The area has long been isolated from the rest of Dorchester, largely thanks to I-93.

“The pedestrian environment on Columbia Point is particularly harsh, with streets that do nothing to encourage the urban vitality and interaction that are prevalent elsewhere in the City,” the report says. “Left unchecked, these qualities would impede the revitalization and future development of Columbia Point.”

Under the proposed plan, office space would total 933,000 square feet, with retail space totaling 492,000 square feet.

The draft plan also proposed to reduce paved areas and add paths for pedestrians and bicyclists on both sides of Morrissey Boulevard, “creating a more traditional boulevard,” according to the executive summary.

“Critical to unlocking the development potential of Columbia Point is to more fully understand and address design constraints at Kosciuszko Circle, the Interstate 93 access ramps, and Morrissey Boulevard,” the report says. “To this end, the Master Plan calls for a comprehensive follow-up study and plan to analyze future traffic demand and formulate design solutions for these roadways.”

The draft report also touches on the land which the Boston Globe sits on. The New York Times Co., which owns the newspaper, has put a “For Sale” sign on the newspaper.

“Buildout is expected to occur progressively over many years,” the report says. “At this time, the Boston Globe has no plans to move or redevelop its property.”

Two meetings have been scheduled for discussion of the plan on July 9 and July 23. Both meetings are set for 5 p.m. at Boston College High School.

The draft master plan and other documents related to the task force's work can be reviewed here.