^ Widett Circle reconceived : focal point for the “10 people on twitter” (actually more like 70-80) ?
—- —- —- —-
Whatever negatives the anti-Olympics constituency may have hurled into New Boston’s machine, its inexorable progress has not suffered even one nick. In the past few days the BRA has approved several major new projects, all over the City; including affordable living quarters near North Station, the Harmon Apartments in Dorchester, a new AC Hotel in the South , a big mixed-use development at 1650 Commonwealth Avenue, and the re-purposing of Dorchester Avenue from Andrew Square to the Post Office. This last was a feature of Boston 2024’s Olympic Plan. It will now go forward. So will a major expansion of South Station, as soon as the US Post Office administration approves this vast and complicated rearranging.
Today we add reports aplenty that the rebuilding of Widett Circle has moved from talk to plan. (Widett Circle is the huge, mostly open area between Massachusetts Avenue and Southampton Street, between South Bay Mall and the I-93 exit at Albany Street.) Widett now hosts the City’s meat packing, food distribution industry — no minor matter at all.
Do the meat packers object to being re- purposes ? Do they insist on staying put ? To read what the anti-Olympics crowd tweeted, you’d think these meat guys were A tribe of Native Americans, facing eviction from sacred tribal grounds. After all, didn’t the anti-2024 bards tweet dozens of haikus to the beauty of meat packing ? ens of poems to the hard-working meat me ?140-character epics to the Widett tribe’s holy soil ?
One might almost have thought, watching the USOC give our City the finger, that the 2024 Committee’s Widett plan would get nixed by the City’s “tone police.” Yet here we are. Sara Myerson, who now heads Mayor Walsh’s Imagine2030 initiative, discussed Widett plans with The Boston Globe two weeks ago. Those plans include the possibility of building a deck over the major railroad tracks that pass through Widett, the possibly prohibitive cost thereof., and alternatives. I quote the following from that article :
“The Widett redevelopment will probably be one of the most high-profile changes put in place by Walsh’s Imagine Boston 2030 plan, which is expected to be done in 2017.
“On Thursday night, the Boston Redevelopment Authority took the next step in the process when it selected New York-based HR&A Advisors to work with Boston’s Utile in running the master-planning effort. Myerson said it’s not clear when Boston would seek a developer for Widett. City officials, she said, need to have a better idea of what they want built.
“The wholesalers probably won’t want to wait much longer for some answers, though. Boston 2024 had been negotiating to find a new home for them in Marine Industrial Park, on land in South Boston controlled by the Massachusetts Port Authority. Massport’s chief executive, Thomas Glynn, said officials at the authority plan to meet with a broker representing the wholesalers this month to discuss what they would require.”
Disturbing, it might sound, that the City plans public meetings in connection with Widett futures. Do we really want to go there, after seeing what became of “public:” meetings for the 2024 Bid ? Yet the outcome of the passionately opposed 3200- Washington Street development in Egleston Square suggests that opening a major project to protesters need not squelch it. Approval thereof was granted by the BRA last night, despite a full room including dozens of loud opponents. (I have seen the opposition personally, having attended a 3j200 Washington Street meeting about a month ago.)
Why did 3200 Washington Street succeed, when the loudly opposed 2024 Bid failed ? As I see it, there’s two major factors : one, the 3200 Project also had strong support right there in the neighborhood, and those supporters showed up at public meetings to say so; and two, 3200 Washington threatened only one geographic segment of the anti-development constituency, whereas Boston 2024 threatened all of it at one time.
My guess is that Widett will face more powerful and better-prepared opposition than 3200 Washington did. For the anti Olympics folks, Widett Circle became a big deal, a flash point. I expect to see and hear lots of vilification, personal attacks upon City Hall people including the Mayor, slogans and buzzwords, and those famous “10 people on twitter” (actually more like 70 to 80) boiling up cray cray all over the place. Indeed, they’ve already begun. If you search the hashtag #Widett on twitter you’ll see the tweets as red and sharp as a lobster clawing at your face.
Menawhile, as #Widett draws all the lobsters, the rest of the city goes on fishing, hauling traps; BRA on the move roaring like a cigarette boat making way to a harbor entirely different than Boston has settled into. That’s not imagination at all. It is real. 2030.
Lastly, let’s remember the big catch : a huge boost in real estate taxes. You want all those new high schools, gyms, libraries ? You want “affordable” housing ? Well, you can’t get them without money. Real estate taxes boosted big time by the utterly reconstructed City will get them for you.
Be clear about what you wish fir, oh lobsters of Boston.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere