Public asked to weigh in on Mt. Vernon Street revamp

The Boston Redevelopment Authority is asking Dorchester residents to help redesign Columbia Point’s Mt. Vernon Street. The city planning agency has set a meeting for next Thursday, March 27 at 6 p.m., inside the Corcoran Jennison Community Building at 270 Mt. Vernon St.

The street has UMass Boston and the JFK Library at one end, and, with a break at the MBTA tracks, ends at Boston Street, just past Columbia Road.

The redesign comes as the Columbia Point neighborhood is undergoing a building boom.

UMass Boston is finishing off an integrated sciences complex and starting work on an academic building, with another one in the pipeline. The JFK Library’s Edward M. Kennedy Institute is also under way. On the residential side, Corcoran Jennison is building “University Place” in front of its Bayside office complex.

Synergy, owned by developer David Greaney, is building residences in between JFK/UMass MBTA Station and the Star Market on Morrissey Boulevard.

More changes are expected as Herb Chambers has said he will open a dealership at the old Channel 56 property, and the owner of the Boston Globe, John Henry, has told Boston magazine that he plans to move the newspaper’s headquarters to the downtown area.

“We are trying to take the long view and build a forward-looking street,” said Corey Zehngebot senior urban designer and architect at the Boston Redevelopment Authority. The agency’s board adopted a master plan for Columbia Point in 2011 after overseeing a public task force made up of city officials and neighborhood residents.

Along with UMass Boston, other educational institutions along Mt. Vernon Street include the Dever Elementary School and the McCormack Middle School. About 3,500 people live in the area, according to the BRA.

Next week’s meeting will focus on revamping Mt. Vernon Street to better accommodate pedestrians, cyclists as well as car drivers. “The reality is we are facing change and one of the realities we’re dealing with is we need to find and implement all ways of getting around,” said John Read, a Boston Redevelopment Authority senior planner.

The budget for the initial phase of the design is $400,000, according to the agency.

Officials will focus on trees and landscaping, ample sidewalks, bicycle parking, bicycle tracks that separate a bike lane from car traffic, and travel lanes for automobiles. Better lighting and benches can make the sidewalk more attractive, according to Zehngebot. “It starts with wider sidewalks that are smooth and accessible,” she said.

There is also the potential for better signage and connections to the Harborwalk path that snakes around Columbia Point. Simple maps pointing people to the JFK Library are another option.

“We’re very open minded to hearing from the community and also the businesses that are located on Columbia Point about what we can temporarily install as part of a pilot program,” Zehngebot said.

The exact configuration of Mt. Vernon Street will be determined after the BRA meets with community members. “This is where the public comes in,” Read said.

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