Spring finally arrived after an unusually miserable winter, and Mayor Marty Walsh drove a spade into Mission Hill soil breaking ground for the long-awaited Roxbury Crossing Senior Center on March 29. This 40-unit affordable rental housing development for seniors over age 62 has been on hold for several years due to the recession. It will be a monument to the tenacity and passion of Jim Hoffman, Pat Flaherty and the dedicated volunteers at Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services. Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez took some gentle ribbing by a few of the neighborhood wise guys about the length of the process, but Jeff enjoyed the last laugh as he gave it right back with a wink and a broad smile at the festivities. Shaina Aubourg of the mayor’s Neighborhood Services squad said the event was “one of the best I’ve ever attended because everyone was pleased with the community’s embrace of the project.”
Community planning, by its very nature, generates contention and conflict. Change is difficult for everyone to some degree. Expansion, renewal and innovation are constants in the development of the American city. What has kept Boston a charming livable locus is the historic commitment of its citizens to diligently monitor its development. Has it been perfect? Heck, no! There have been several design flops that offset the brilliance of the time-tested landscape of Frederick Law Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace. Overall, ours remains a walkable charming town with very little of the blight of vacant lot moonscapes and blustery skyscraper canyons that are prevalent in most our nation’s urban centers.
Blessed to reside in our “Hub of the Solar System,” as dubbed by Oliver Wendell Holmes, the attractiveness of Boston is not accidental. Sensible planning and good politics are critically important to our town’s future as it has been in the past. Passionate community activism is what saved us from having I-95 shear this area like the Central Artery did to the North and West End.
Mayor Walsh understands this City and its potential and knows the importance of tweaking the planning and development process to improve it. He has made several bold moves to get the ball rolling such as the appointment of former state representative and federal administrator Brian Golden as his acting director of the BRA. The Governor’s appointee Timothy Burke was recently voted as the chairman of the BRA board. Both individuals know and love this city and have toured Mission Hill on foot, listening and gathering input from many in this neighborhood. The future looks good for Mission Hill from where I sit, and we here at Main Streets are excited about the future.
Last month, Mission Hill Main Streets gathered a group of interested neighbors to reinvigorate our design committee and had a wonderful kickoff looking at ways of improving some small pockets in the commercial districts. Some clever ideas were discussed and there will be more to come. One area that everyone felt needed some attention that around the Roxbury Crossing MBTA Station where the new elderly complex is underway. The commencement of that senior development has come at just the right time.
The writer is the executive director of Mission Hill Main Street.