Ten Stories to Watch in the New Year

Here’s a summary of the headlines and story lines you can expect to see in our pages in the coming months:

All Eyes on Columbia Point
Two of the biggest headlines in 2017 could be generated by the machinations of the powerful interests still circling Dorchester’s Columbia Point neighborhood. UMass president Marty Meehan seems bullish on the prospects of teaming up with his buddy Robert Kraft, of the Trump-loving Patriots empire, to build a soccer/concert stadium on what was once the Bayside Expo Center site.

Now partially bulldozed, the waterfont land— once eyed as a prime location for a mix of housing and retail— in now controlled by the UMass Building Authority. The university is hemorraging cash, though, and is tapped out on building funds. So— as first reported last summer—why not partner up with the Krafts to build a home for their Revolution soccer franchise that could also be used by UMass sports?

Intriguing? Perhaps, until you consider that such a change in use would likely preclude UMass Boston’s long term plans to grow their residential footprint on their campus. It’s also hard to fathom how a public that was death on paying for an Olympic Athlete’s Village will change their tune when asked— as they surely will be—to pay for expensive roadway improvements at nearby Koscziusko Circle.

Governor Baker and Mayor Walsh have both sounded optimistic notes on the notion— but the rest of the Dorchester delegation and notably veteran Kraft stadium foe Rep. Stephen Lynch— have all indicated that such a plan would be DOA at their door.

Watch for this to be a major flashpoint early in 2017 if the Kraft-Meehan forces decide to give it a go.

As the Globe Turns
Just down the street, there’s been a virtual news blackout for months now about what’s happening next for the property that houses the region’s premiere news organization. The Boston Globe campus on Morrissey Boulevard is — apparently— under agreement to be sold to a new buyer, which the Boston Business Journal and the Reporter have independently named as David Ridini of Center Court Properties.

The Globe newsroom is decamping in the new year for new quarters at 53 State St. in Boston’s Financial District. The move has been pushed back several times and is now slated for mid summer 2017. Most of the Globe’s printing operations have already been shifted to a new facility in Taunton.

So what’s next for the 16.5-acre Morrissey site that the Globe has called home since 1958? Presuming that the sale goes forward (one previous buyer backed out of an agreement in 2015), the expectation is that the new buyer will seek to follow the rough outline of a now-dusty Master Plan drafted by a BRA-led task force and published in 2011. That plan calls for a new neighborhood of residential and commercial uses with a new street bisecting the Globe property and running parallel with Morrissey on a north-south route. The turn of the calendar should bring more clarity. And — if the call of the Reporter is heeded— city planners will seek to update their old Master Plan soon to get fresh community input into what we want to see as Dorchester people.

Glover’s Corner
One thing that the Boston Planning and Development Agency (the old BRA) will definitely get going in the new year is a new planning effort focused on Glover’s Corner, the historic crossroads of Hancock, Dot Ave. and Freeport Street.. First announced last January in Walsh’s State of the City address, the focus will be on the Freeport Street corridor— mainly an industrial zone that could over time give way to a whole new sub-neighborhood adjacent to Savin Hill. The planning district includes the huge yellow school bus depot and the aging Campbell Resource Center, both potential targets for re-development.

There’s little doubt that after South Bay and Columbia Point, is the next major frontier for major reinvention in Dorchester— as long as the economic tide allows for it.

Re-Making Morrissey
This building boom won’t long endure without a healthy investment in infrastructure— and the state is finally ready to ante up on the most important coastal road on this side of the city— Morrissey Boulevard. In 2016, the Department of Consevration and Recreation embarked on a design expedition that will find its summit in the new year, with actual shovels hitting sand and pavement in 2018. Once works actually starts, you should settle in for the long haul. DCR engineers expect it’ll take 8-10 years to complete the three-phase as presently envisioned. The most complicated stretch of parkway is the segment between Freeport Street and UMass the bisects Dorchester Bay and that gets pole position once the projects is actually fully funded to the tune of at least $40 million. That’s one task for the Legislature in the new year: Get the Morrissey money. At the community level, the priority will be on guiding the final design plans. There’s already considerable push-back from Port Norfolk residents in particular to certain early design elements, most notablt dropping one of the three existing vehicular lanes on Morrissey to allow for safer bicycle routes. Watch for another public meeting on the topic early in 2017.

Into the Weed
It’s been left to the new year to sort out the details of the state’s dramatic shift to fully legal marijuana.

What will this mean for neighborhood business districts? Remember when neighbors went into revolt at the thought of a tattoo parlor(!) opening up shop on Savin Hill Avenue a decade ago? LOL. Will lawmakers at the city and state level now seek to stymie bricks-and-mortar sale of the kind bud on your block? Under the newly passed law, it will likely take a referendum to get an outright ban on pot shops in the city, but there may be wiggle-room to add restrictions to where they can open. And who’ll get to profit now that the dime bags are going legit?

More Cranes on the Horizon
The six-story Treadmark building at the old Ashmont Tire property on Dot Ave. is moving right along towards its expected completion with 83 units of housing late in 2017. The much larger South Bay Town Center will be under construction throughout the new year. And DotBlock, with hundreds of new units of housing along Dot Ave. and Hancock Street— is expected to see its first actual work start with the demolition of the existing warehouse buildings on the site sometime in 2017. Other projects expected to be rising include Cote Village on Cummins Highway in Mattapan and the Indigo Block in Uphams Corner.

Reckoning Time for the Trolley?
An MBTA-ordered study on the future of the Mattapan High-Speed trolley line is due to be made public in early 2017. Charlie Baker’s transit authority is under pressure to keep the 1940s era throwback PCC cars on track from Dot’s political delegation, which have themselves been hearing from constituents who are super-passionate about their orange rattlers. The study is aimed at looking at the feasibility of the aging trolley fleet— which is still running thanks to the ingenuity of T mechanics. But there are other factors to consider, including the viability of the bridges that carry the trolleys through Cedar Grove. We expect to get an update on where this is headed at the next T Control Board meeting in January.

Mixed-Use Project for Mattapan
The new year could finally bring a long-awaited mixed-use development project in Mattapan Square, one of the Boston neighborhoods that could really use a dose of the growth that’s touched nearly every other corner of the city. The catalyst should come in the form of a new mixed-use housing and commercial project on what is now an underutilized River Street parking lot next to the Mattapan T station. Nuestra Comunidad Development Corporation and the Preservation of Affordable Housing Inc.

(POAH) won a competitive process this year to redevelop the site. Their plan:
A new building to house 135 units of housing, 69 of which are described as affordable, and 12,000 square feet of commercial space— ideally with a sit-down, licensed restaurant. The developer plan a meeting with the community in January to advance the plans.

An OK on Greenway Extension
The final construction work to extend the Neponset Greenway trail into Mattapan and Milton is just about done and the new mile-long segment— including the new Harvest Bridge that connects Mattapan to Milton by Ryan Playground— is now slated for a spring 2017 opening. The new trail between Mattapan Square and Central Avenue will open up new recreational opportunities along a stretch of the river that’s been fenced off for generations. It’s the latest advance in the dramatic reclamation of our waterfront and it will be a moment to celebrate in the new year.

A mayoral contest?
Mayor Martin J. Walsh is the heavy favorite as he turns the corner into his first re-election year— coming up in September 2017. Will City Councillor Tito Jackson (District 7) seek to unseat his Dorchester neighbor? Jackson, so far, seems to be the most likely challenger— if Walsh gets one at all. If not Tito, then will some other upstart seek to go up against a first-term, deep-pocketed mayor with favorables edging 70 percent? It’s not likely. Nomination papers will be in circulation in April— but we should know whether they’ll be a serious challenger by Valentine’s Day.