Polish Triangle prepares for potential South Bay expansion

Mike Deehan, Special to the Reporter
Jan. 17, 2013

Concerned about how the expansion of the South Bay Mall might affect close-by neighborhoods, the McCormack Civic Association, the group that deals with concerns in the Polish triangle and nearby areas, will hold a charrette-style meeting next month to offer input as development firms proceed with their plans.

Charrettes have been used in the past to gather community input on major developments around the neighborhood. In 2011, UMass Boston facilitated community sessions to help determine how best to utilize the site of the former Bayside Expo Center on Columbia Point.

Last September, neighborhood residents learned of a Boston-based development firm’s plans to dramatically expand the South Bay shopping district onto properties along Boston Street. Samuels & Associates, the outfit that built the Mall in the 1990s, said at the time that it was in the “very early stages” of a possible project in Dorchester. The conceptual plan listed a Lowe’s and a BJ’s Wholesale Club as possible tenets of new “big box” style buildings.

Residents living close to the mall have recently reported seeing surveyors who refused to say who they were working for or what they were doing at the sites taking measurements around properties between Boston Street and South Bay.

At an association meeting last Wednesday, executive board member Desmond Rohan said that the plan in question was only one of several possible proposals made by developers to add onto the mall.

“There’s definitely writings on the wall” when it comes to South Bay, Rohan said at the Carpenters Center session. “Something’s going to happen down there, so instead of reacting to a developer’s plan let’s be proactive.”

The association forum will be the next step toward the group’s goal of maintaining a professional level of community input involved in any changes that come to South Bay. McCormack, which has already held several outreach meetings on the topic, has engaged a UMass Boston civil planning class to help write a strategic plan expressing the neighborhood’s stance based on demographic data about residents living near the mall.

Rohan said the group is hoping to acquire space at UMass Boston sometimes next month for the Mall- planning charrette. The meeting would begin with stakeholders brainstorming ideas and presenting them to the full group in working toward a collective consensus. The association hopes to have an architect at the meeting who would help finalize a professional plan.

One of the more pressing concerns the group faces is the potential development of the current Verizon site on Boston Street into an entryway for the mall. Adding a third main entrance to South Bay has many locals concerned about its impact on traffic in an already snarled area.

Before discussing the South Bay issues, last Wednesday’s meeting focused on possible changes to traffic patterns to help alleviate congestion and dangerous driving along Boston Street and connecting roads. The association has sent a proposal to the Boston Transportation Department’s Brian McKinley to make both Clapp and Enterprise Streets one-way in opposite directions to help with traffic flow and parking.