Point task force to meet Thursday night; some hope for closure on plan

The end could be in sight for a two-year effort to lay out a master redevelopment plan for Columbia Point. A mayorally-appointed task force that has been working for two years on a master plan with the city’s planning and development agency is scheduled to meet next Thursday (Dec. 10) at 6:30 p.m. in the Corcoran Mullins Jennison Community Building at 270 Mt. Vernon St.

“I’d like to come to some closure, I’d like to wrap it up,” said Don Walsh, a member of the task force and of the Columbia Point Savin Hill Civic Association. He said he hopes to hear final recommendations from BRA staffers on the proposal, incorporating some of the feedback they’ve received in recent months.

But the civic association, which has several members on the task force along with Walsh, is declining to officially weigh in on the proposal. The draft plan calls for increasing the area’s density with more housing and turning it into a 24-hour-a-day neighborhood.

“We didn’t feel we could come to a consensus on the entire plan,” said Maureen McQuillan, head of the association. Individual association members like and dislike various parts of the plan, she said, and they’ve been encouraged to submit comments to the BRA on the proposal.

Some strong critics of the proposal have emerged. They say the plan would lead to an increase in traffic, overburdening an already-strained Morrissey Boulevard. They are also opposed to the initially-proposed height of 20 stories for buildings close to the JFK/UMass MBTA stop.

“After the comment period that the community had, I hope to see some alterations to their plans and to see how our comments will influence the project if at all,” said Heidi Moesinger, a Savin Hill native.

Walsh said he expects for the draft master plan to be changed to include more scaled-down heights for buildings. He also noted that with the economy still in a recession and questions over what will happen to the Bayside Expo Center site, the sense of urgency that helped launch the task force has faded. Redevelopment of the area is expected to take a while, and BRA officials have stressed that nothing is set in stone.

Whatever ends up being the final master plan, developers will still have to go through a city approval process for their plans. McQuillan said the civic association will be keeping tabs on development plans and anything that has to go through the approval process.

It remains unclear when a final master plan would be sent to the BRA board for approval and it appears unlikely to appear on the agenda of the Dec. 17 board meeting.

Columbia Point is bordered by Interstate 93 on its left side and Dorchester Bay on its right. It houses 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 peninsula, which is largely separated from Savin Hill by the interstate, is also the future home of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the Senate.

The draft master plan calls for a “comprehensive” analysis of future traffic demands and redesigns of the roadways, including Kosciuszko Circle and the Interstate 93 access ramps. The proposal predicts the redevelopment will lead to 4,000 construction jobs and 5,000 permanent jobs, while annual property taxes will reach $23 million.

The draft master plan can be viewed at the BRA’s website: tinyurl.com/ColumbiaPoint.