What’s Happening on Main Street

Thank you to all from the Mission Hill business community for your support over the past year and best wishes for all in 2015.

As we go to press, Charlie Baker will soon be installed as our new governor, and we wish him well. Judging from his early appointments of several prominent Democrats, it appears that this incoming Republican is wisely reaching across the aisle in order to accomplish his agenda.

Mayor Marty Walsh and Councilor Josh Zakim have just completed their first year representing Mission Hill in City Hall. Each has been industrious and thoughtful in the way he approaches his responsibilities. Let us pray that the style of governance exhibited by these three leaders is noticed by our national leaders in Washington. The public expects their elected officials to work together for the commonweal. Let’s hope that 2015 begins with a better tone in the nation’s capital.

Word around town is that Walsh’s “#5onMain” campaign to encourage Bostonians to make five of their holiday purchases in the neighborhoods was extremely effective. It certainly worked well for me this year. Nearly all my gift purchases were made locally and my Santa cred was definitely enhanced. A secondary benefit to me was that I visited no malls and don’t believe that I missed a thing. Many Mission Hill merchants told me that 2014 was a successful year for them.

Over the past few years of penning this column, I am often surprised by the responses I receive about some item I’ve written. A number of folks commented to me recently about my recent remarks concerning Harvard University’s “complicated” history with the Mission Hill neighborhood. In light of those interesting annals, I’d like to recommend a book on Boston community development written by a former resident of a Heath Street three-decker on the back of the hill, Jim Vrabel.

You might remember Jim as the community activist who Mayor Ray Flynn tapped to lead his newly created office of neighborhood services back in 1984. Following last month’s Crime Committee meeting, I dropped by the Mission Hill Health Movement’s annual meeting where Jim was the featured speaker. I regretted missing his talk, but was lucky to purchase a copy of his “A People’s History of the New Boston,” which has been receiving rave reviews in the press. I flew through my copy and loved his Chapter 11 on “Do It Yourself Community Development,” which features the story of the creation of RTH and Mission Park. It is a must-read for anyone wishing to better understand this neighborhood. The chronicles of my favorite pair of sisters, Theresa Parks and Anna Adams, is surpassed only by having heard it from their own mouths over the years.

Vrabel takes you through episodes of importance across the city over the past half-century. The book will appeal to old townies and newcomers alike. The best part is that it is done without the arrogant castigation of many books authored by those in academia. Jim’s love for Boston and its people comes through on every page.

I think it behooves the leadership of Equity Residential of Chicago to purchase a copy of Jim Vrabel’s book before proceeding any further with their nutty idea of a proposed 35-story tower at 45 Worthington Street. The one obvious difference between Equity’s proposal and the 22 cases cited in Vrabel’s book is at least there was some support for those other projects. I have yet to hear of anyone in favor of Equity’s scheme. Perhaps I’ll eat these words when I run into an unemployed skyscraper window-washer looking for work. I doubt it, though.

As a new year begins, let us hope that the economy continues its improvement. History proves that no one truly knows what the future holds. For example, recall what you were paying for gasoline last year at this time if you believe the world is predictable. However, I will make one prognostication: In 2015, Mission Hill will continue to thrive as a hot neighborhood. The area will look nicer, will be even more welcoming, and will be an even better place to live, work, learn and play. Mission Hill Main Streets will strive to do even more. Happy New Year!

The writer is the executive director of Mission Hill Main Streets.

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