Well-attended Mattapan NRT meeting focuses on new businesses, housing

The scene during Monday's Mattapan NRT meeting at the Mildred Avenue Community Center. Caleb Nelson photo

Mayor Walsh’s liaison to Mattapan Ruth Georges organized a lively Neighborhood Response Team (NRT) meeting on Monday night. Almost 100 Mattapan residents filled a classroom on the second floor of the Mildred Avenue Community Center to discuss issues ranging from traffic congestion and double parking to the location of a new lobster wholesaler off Morton Street.

The meeting was mainly informational, although members of the community did get some time to speak despite a packed agenda. The evening started with a presentation about traffic safety, and Mayor Walsh’s Vision Zero Boston, an effort to eliminate traffic-related fatalities.

"Traffic crashes are not accidents. They happen for reasons," said Charlotte Fleetwood, a planner with the Boston Transportation Department. "We want to get at the reasons, and change behavior, and also change the way our streets are designed."

Boston EMS responds to two or three pedestrians or bicyclists struck each day, Fleetwood said. Data show that speed has a big impact. In Dorchester, Codman Square, Norfolk Street and New England Avenue are particularly dangerous areas.

“We just want to slow people down, and create a culture where people yield when they're turning, and are aware of when there's a pedestrian or a bicyclist in the street,” said Fleetwood.

The Boston Transportation Department keeps traffic crash map on visionzeroboston.org, and soon data for all of 2015 will be available.

Next up, Donald Wright, deputy director of Real Estate Management and Sales in the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND). He spoke briefly about the DND’s efforts, and their new platform, courbanize.com.

By logging onto this new website, Wright said, “You can engage with your neighbors in real time. It allows everyone to have their voices heard throughout this process. If you're not comfortable speaking in a large forum, you can still have your voices heard.”

The website provides access to all of the data that DND has on file, including “the end results of the [Requests for Proposals] of people who are responding to our proposals,” Wright said. “What we want is to make sure that everybody is well aware of that process, and when the community meetings are happening.”

The room heated up as people continued to arrive, filling the room beyond capacity 30 minutes into the meeting.

Allyson Quinn of the Boston Redevelopment Authority described how the planning agency is starting to look at development in Mattapan in a historical context.

“It's been 50 years since the city has had a citywide rezoning effort,” she said. “Some of the things we've been looking at are the types of businesses: Do they meet the needs of the community? What's missing? If we were going to try to make this a complete neighborhood, meaning that you have access to everything you needed to maintain the quality of your life, does that match up with what’s here?”

Jovan J. Lacet, a former candidate for city council and a lawyer with an office on Cedar Street, expressed a concern about gentrification, arguing that the Mattapan community rarely has time to react to changes in the neighborhood.

“You guys have a 20/30-year plan, which most folks in Mattapan know nothing about,” he added. "We need to have another meeting like this where you're giving us the 20/30-year plan [that] will show us the gentrification that's taking place.”

As it happens, gentrification will be the subject of a forum to be held at the Mattapan Center for Life on Thurs., Jan. 14, at 5:30 p.m.

Quinn responded to Lacet: “We’re in the process of Imagine Boston 2030, which is trying to engage people to talk about what their vision of their neighborhoods should be, what they'd like to see, where they think they're going to be in 2030, what they think their environment is going to look like.”

The next discussion revolved around the Cote Village Project, a 76-unit development on River Street that includes commercial space. The BRA is hosting a public meeting solely devoted to that project on Thurs., Jan. 28 at 6:30 p.m. at 249 River St.

The last several items on the agenda focused on local businesses sharing their plans to move or open new locations in Mattapan. A Dunkin Donuts is looking to open at 1621 Blue Hill Avenue, with an abutters meeting scheduled on site this Thursday at 6:3 0p.m.

Another abutters meeting is scheduled for January 21 at 6 p.m. for a commercial property at 29-33 Hannon St., which would house a welding business, an auto repair shop, and a wholesale lobster company.
Envy, a new Latin American restaurant at 765 Morton St. provided food for the meeting along with Domino’s, which plans to move from its current space at 1672 Blue Hill Ave. to the location of a former Dunkin Donuts near Jubilee Church owned by the Berarducci family, which is closer to the center of its current delivery area.

Overall, the meeting achieved everything mayoral liaison Georges hoped it would.

“That's community engagement,” she said. “As a newbie to government I am still learning so much. If I am involved in it every day and I'm lost at times, imagine someone that's completely disengaged. The goal is to educate our residents about the resources and services that exist, and that's really important to the administration.”