A city-led effort to transform underused spaces and historic buildings in Uphams Corner into a bustling and vibrant cultural center will mark an important milestone this month when the public gets its chance to assess how things stand.
At a meeting on Wed., Nov. 28, some of the critical language in three RFPs (Requests for Proposals) for the collection of city- and land trust-owned parcels around the commercial and cultural heart of the village will be available for review.
City officials characterize the RFPs as a collective unit as far as the neighborhood’s vision is concerned. With the city controlling some of the land, like a municipal lot and the historic Strand Theatre, and the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative’s land trust controlling bank buildings and other nearby parcels, there are slightly different requirements piece by piece.
“Throughout the process we have been talking at a very high level about what the objectives will be for the area, the arts and innovation district,” said Kristina Ricco, senior planner with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA). “And so rather than these each individual opportunities going out separately, we’re hoping to combine them all three under one cover.”
Residents last got to see draft RFP language in June. They set out priorities like the interaction between the Strand and a new $18 million Uphams Corner library branch, affordable commercial space, and taking advantage of existing public transit access.
Since getting feedback at that public meeting, the city and the local working advisory group have shaped updated language. Participants at the Nov. 28 gathering (6-8 p.m. at 580 Columbia Rd.) will be asked to compare the new RFPs with evaluation criteria on areas including affordable housing, commercial space, and facilitating an arts and innovation district.
The evaluation criteria are how respondent proposals get scored and they are not usually dwelled on at the community level, Ricco noted, “because they generally are what they are. But we have written special evaluation criteria because we have special priorities here.”
As far as the RFP documents themselves are concerned, the city is still tweaking the details and will not be plunking down entire massive documents for residents to rifle through during a single two-hour meeting.
They will be going through “a lot of what is most relevant to the public,” Ricco said. Attendees will be able to offer feedback on the literal language of the new RFPs, in each of the specific categories, and the evaluation criteria.
“What we hope to get out of the meeting is a little bit of a reconciliation,” said Andrew Grace, the city’s director of strategic planning and economic development. “We heard this from you, community; here’s the document we have made. Does the information, the categories that we’re putting in front of you — is it consistent with we’ve heard, and does this accurately reflect the ambitions, hopes, and vision of the parties that are involved?”
Officials expect another follow-up meeting either in December or January.