Hill History: This Month in MH History

February 2, 2018
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The following are the Gazette’s top headlines from this month in Mission Hill history:

5 Years Ago: 2013

“NU outlines 18 possible projects”

Northeastern University (NU) had released an Institutional Master Plan which was designated as a “wish list” for hoped-for projects. The plans included a major renovation of a city playground and at least one dormitory project.

The university’s main priorities were to replace the 2.7-acre parking lot at 795 Columbus Ave. with three buildings varying from seven to 18 stories each, creating up to 600,000 square feet of academic and research space. This is currently a parking garage.

NU also wanted to redevelop Carter Playground at Columbus Avenue and Cedar Street. NU said it would donate funds to increase the area of the playground about 25 percent, enough to add a second multi-purpose field. The redevelopment would also reorient the fields and existing tennis courts. In 2015, it was announced that NU had committed to investing $26 million to transforming the playground in a public-private partnership with the City of Boston.

To see the 2013 proposed NU IMP, visit bit.ly/NUimp2013.

 

10 Years Ago: 2008

“Muddy River may see the light”

In 2008, MH residents still complained about the infamous “jughandle” lane from Brookline Avenue to Park Drive, and looked forward to the soon forthcoming Muddy River Restoration Project.

An agreement was made between the Project’s oversight committee in late 2007 that the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) would maintain the revamped river and its parkland, which came with a $24 million maintenance fund.

At the time, the project was held up by some major approvals, including the fact that the project hadn’t secured full federal funding yet.

The Muddy was a heavily altered river that flowed from Jamaica Plain’s Jamaica Pond along the Brookline border, then through the Fenway and Back Bay, where it entered the Charles River. The river flooded regularly, which caused massive damage in 1996 and 1998 in the Longwood Medical and Academic Area (LMA) and the Fenway.

The project involved clearing and dredging the river and giving it more room to flow. The City of Boston had previously done its own repairs to the Charlesgate area, where the Muddy enters the Charles.

The project had been in the works for years with heavy involvement from the Emerald Necklace Conservancy (ENC). The 2008 meeting, held in the Landmark Center atrium, included an awards ceremony and the touting of Lance Armstrong-style green plastic bracelets indicating the wearer’s support of the project.

 

15 Years Ago: 2003

“Sanchez makes politically sensitive decisions”

In his first month in office, newly elected state Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez made three decisions related to the state’s budget crisis at the time. They included voting to retain controversial House Speaker Thomas Finneran; voting to give Gov. Mitt Romney unprecedented authority to cut the state budget; and a decision to decline a pay raise.

The speaker is chosen annually by a vote by House members. Finneran had been accused of being autocratic and vengeful in his House leadership.

“Like I said [during the campaign], I want to go up there and work with leadership,” Sánchez said in 2003. “We’ll need somebody up there who understands the fiscal crisis we’re in right now. It’s going to be an extremely challenging time.”

Sánchez also joined the House vote that, along with state Senate support, gave Romney expanded powers to cut the state budget for a limited time. Under standard law, Romney could only make unilateral cuts to the health and human services parts of the budget.

“It’s so the services that help the elderly, the poor, the most vulnerable populations don’t get disproportionately affected,” Sánchez said. “Now everybody’s going to be affected. That’s the challenge. The challenge we’re facing now is the biggest we have faced since the Depression.”

The budget crisis presented Sánchez with another sticky decision: whether to accept a 6.5 percent pay raise, from $50,123 to $53,381 a year.

Under a 1998 amendment to the state constitution, the legislature got an automatic pay adjustment every two years, with the raise or cut determined by the governor and based on the state’s median household income.

Romney pressured state representatives and senators not to accept the pay raise.

“I’m looking at [the budget] and it looks pretty nasty,” Sanchez said. “You know, other people need [the money]. The more of us who don’t take it, the better.”

State Representative Jeffrey Sanchez still represents Mission Hill today.

 

20 Years Ago: 1998

“Wentworth garage plan raises eyebrows”

Over the years, some community issues remain the same. Concerns about traffic and parking, as they are now, were raised at a public meeting in 1998.

Wentworth Institute had proposed to build a 1,200-space parking garage at Prentiss and Halleck streets in order to consolidate the school’s parking. Several people raised concerns that the facility would encourage students to keep cars and increase traffic in an already overburdened area, and that the green line was already convenient and sufficient in that area.

Fredericka Buckley said “it seems totally unnecessary.”

Wentworth maintained the view that the garage would be necessary to accommodate for the students that commute to school and those that hold jobs that require cars.

At the time, 185 on-street parking spaces were slated to vanish due to the redesign of Huntington Avenue and the designation of some nearby streets to become resident-only. This was right around the time that Huntington Avenue was newly-named Avenue of the Arts.

The site exists today as a parking lot, not garage.

 

Compiled by Emily Resnevic