What’s Happening on Main Streets

Excitement ensues as autumn arrives and daylight diminishes. The Mission Hill business district continues to evolve as stores rehab and impressive developments arise. As I age, I delight in witnessing the effect a good economy produces on people’s sensibilities across our city on a daily basis. To quote a hero of my youth, the great Yankee’s catcher Yogi Berra, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

The neighborhood is excited with the goings on. Karen Gately, executive director of the Roxbury Tenants of Harvard (RTH), expertly hosted a festive “Topping Off” celebration with Mayor Marty Walsh on Sept. 24 to mark the completion of the ironwork construction phase on RTH’s residential housing building at 80 Fenwood Road called the “Mosaic on the Riverway.”

New residents can be seen moving about inside the new Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services’ senior building on Gurney Street in Roxbury Crossing. The daily beehive of activity of Jason Savage’s design at the old Clutch Works site across from the Tobin Community Center over the passing months has been fun to observe. Lots of well-paid construction jobs have been generated for working families from these Mission Hill efforts. However, Yogi once offered this cautionary insight, “A nickle ain’t worth a dime anymore.”

Small business owners have been just as ambitious. Next door to our Orange Line station, that trusty old neighborhood breakfast spot, the Butterfly Café, like a caterpillar, is transforming itself into the Butterfly Falafel. It’s owner and unofficial mayor of Roxbury Crossing, Mash Abdirahman, wants to draw a larger luncheon business. I think most folks tend to go there just to get a dose of Mash’s upbeat enthusiasm and sunny disposition.

Across the street, the Beta Burger is set to open with Adrian Wong’s enthusiastic staff prepping in a spotless setting with shiny new equipment from floor to ceiling. Up the street and across from the Basilica, the Kush Groove boutique is doing a brisk business catering to young hip fashion scene. The energetic young owners have transformed that tired old shop into a retail space that would easily fit right in anywhere on Boylston or Newbury streets.

As you proceed farther up Tremont Street, The Puddingstone (formerly the Crossing Pub) underwent a stylish facelift that will surprise the old regulars under the new ownership of Harry Walsh and John Casey. Let’s hope these shops experience what Yogi said, “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded!”

The appearance of Tremont Street from Roxbury Crossing to Brigham Circle will change later this month as Boston Public Works replaces the tired, old, 1970s-style square streetlight fixtures called shoeboxes with brand new, vintage-styled black poles with acorn shaped globes (a classic Boston street design). Those new lights will shed much greater incandescence in the evening for the safety of the entire thoroughfare.

I remember when candidate Mayor Marty Walsh, speaking at an event at the Penguin, said, “If that is what the community would like to see, I’ll work to make it happen.” DPW Commissioner Michael Dennehy is to be commended for ensuring that the mayor’s word stayed good with Mission Hill. (The hizzoner’s veracity was never in doubt.)

A special note of thanks goes out to the Mission Hill Main Streets Design Committee chaired by Nick Guertin for gathering hundreds of support letters and for their cooperative work with other groups, like the Community Alliance and Crime Watch. As always, our reliable elected officials, such as state Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez and City Councilor Josh Zakim, were beside us all the way. The streetscape this coming holiday season will look so much nicer. “When you come to a fork in the road, take it,” advised Yogi.

The weather for the annual “Friends of the Poor” walk on Sept. 26 was perfect, as hundreds of volunteers sauntered to raise funds for the St. Vincent DePaul Mission Church conference. Young and old, with a sprinkling of dog walkers and baby strollers, appreciated the sunshine and crisp fall air as the ramble proceeded to Forest Hills and back.

Perhaps it was the news coverage of the week’s Papal visit, along with Francis’ message to help those ‘least among us’ that inspired the attendance increase. Thank you to Father Philip Dabney and St. Vinnie’s President Rose Brayboy for naming me as honorary walk chairperson this year. However, people like Vicky and Paul, Tommy and Amy, Emma, Betty, Patty, Mike, Adam, Bob, Julie, Maria, Karan, Elizabeth, Michel, John and countless others deserve all the credit for the growth and success of this noble neighborhood endeavor. Yogi captured events like this nicely when he said, “It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”

Lawrence Peter Berra passed away on Sept. 22 and believed that “You should always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise, they won’t come to yours,” and finally, “Take it with a grin of salt.” Yogi, requiescat in pace.



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