Civic group signs off on Columbia Point plans

The Columbia Point Savin Hill Civic Association on Monday endorsed a master plan for the Dorchester Bay side of the neighborhood. The set of guidelines for developers seeking to build in the area was put together over the course of three years by the Boston Redevelopment Authority and a task force of local residents appointed by Mayor Thomas Menino.

The plan also hopes to help reconnect Columbia Point with Savin Hill – the construction of the expressway in the late 1950s cut off the Point from the rest of Dorchester – and turn it into a neighborhood akin to the South End, with its blend of residential housing and shops. The neighborhood would function 24 hours a day, with 4,300 additional residential units, and, by extension, 8,600 new residents.

Don Walsh, a Savin Hill resident who heads the task force, cautioned that the master plan is simply a framework for developers and property owners. Task force member Paul Nutting said any of the projects that developers are working on will have to go through city planners and neighborhood groups. “Every one of these has to be vetted,” he said.

Pointing to a conceptual layout of Columbia Point, with shops and residences, and noting that the weak economy is slowing development, Nutting, 50, said, “I will never see it look like this.”

The task force was thrown off its work somewhat in December 2009, when UMass-Boston announced its intention to purchase the Bayside Expo site, putting it outside the BRA’s regulatory authority. University officials, who say the 20-acre site will be used for parking during campus construction in the short term, are mulling options for the long term, and plan on keeping the community involved.

Last year, the task force revised the plan, reducing heights for some of the development and increasing the green space by a half-acre. A tower that could eventually be built over the MBTA station would be limited to 17 stories, instead of 22.