As Boston experiences a population boom poised to put the city over the 700,000 mark, which will mean increasing pressures on the housing market, managing all the development is proving to be a beast for the Walsh administration. In an interview with the Reporter last week, the mayor talked about those pressures and the initiatives he has launched in response.
Development and Dot Ave.
“Savin Hill, Fields Corner: A lot of development is coming that way, and they haven’t really seen that in the past, and I think a lot of people are excited about it,” said Walsh. “But in the last three weeks, four weeks, the amount of space that Gerald Chan and some other folks are buying things up here in Dorchester, it means there’s development coming.”
He cited the pending sale of Tom English’s bar, the Dot Block mixed-used development in Glover’s Corner, along with the broader Glover’s Corner planning study, the purchases by Chan of the James Russell Engineering Works and the Spire Printing sites, and “other people quietly buying land up.”
“The Seaport is great, people love it, but what’s missing are middle-wage jobs, manufacturing jobs, where people don’t need a master’s or bachelor’s degree to work there,” he said. The administration has sought to identify areas where those jobs could logically fit.
Glover’s Corner could stand to see more mixed-use, office industrial, and high-tech manufacturing purposes, Walsh said. He said the city needs to work to ensure, “as we move forward, and as it changes and growth happens, which a lot of people wanted, including me, it’s done in a respectful manner.”
Walsh has lived in three places -- St. Margaret's Parish, Savin Hill, and now Lower Mills. And he’s watched housing prices skyrocket, as have other neighbors.
“I think what Dorchester needs is it needs one of these projects to move,” he said. “Either Dot Block needs to get a shovel in the ground, Tom English’s needs to get a shovel in the ground. Something has to move, and... what I’d love to see before my time as mayor is over, I’d rather see some development happen rather than seeing people land-bank.”
About the Point
Acres of prime land around Columbia Point, Mt. Vernon Street, and the top of Morrissey Boulevard remain in limbo as Walsh seeks re-election. As to the Columbia Point Master Plan, published in 2011 after three years of planning, he said, “It’s possible that we’ll dust that off and re-look at it in some point in the near future.”
And the often grid-locked Kosciuszko Circle and the aging JFK/UMass station still await upgrades. “I think there was potential missed opportunity with the [New England] Revolution,” the mayor said. “Just to get the investment by the state, because the state was going to put in hundreds of millions of dollars to fix [the] circle.”
Like his neighbors, Walsh is keeping an eye on the Globe site, for which a second sale just fell through. “That’s important, because when the Globe gets sold, that developer’s not going to sit on that building,” he said. “That developer’s going to immediately act; we need to be ready to make sure on that, because that could be the catalyst for this whole corridor.”
The Inclusionary Development Policy, overhauled last year, raised the required number of affordable units to be built off site during new large-scale construction projects from 13 to 18 percent. Walsh estimates the policy will generate $50 million annually. Walsh also highlighted the Community Preservation Act, passed last November, which levies a property tax surcharge to be used for affordable housing, green space, and historic preservation.
“We’re talking about major money every year going into affordable development once the CPA’s up and running,” he said. With the commonwealth facing a major revenue shortage, he said, “We‘re not going to get the dollar-for-dollar that we were hoping, but if we could get a quarter for dollar for now, that’d be good, but we’re still going to raise about $16 million.”