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Safety, parking and development

by Michele D.  Maniscalco
Thursday May 18, 2017

Photo by Michele Maniscalco
Photo by Michele Maniscalco  

Blackstone/Franklin meeting update

Approximately a dozen people convened in the second-floor meeting room of the D-4 police station at 650 Harrison Avenue on Tuesday, May 16 to discuss public safety, alternate parking proposals, development plans by The Abbey Group for the Flower Market site and to meet former aide to Mayor Menino and District 2 city council candidate Michael Kelley at the Blackstone/Franklin Square Neighborhood Association (B/FSNA) meeting.

Kelley, currently a Bay Village resident, fondly recalled living in "every corner of the South End." Reminiscing on his upbringing in public housing in Revere, Kelley said that while his father worked days for US Airways and nights as a bartender, "My mother was the force that drove my family and still is today." Kelley said his mother encouraged everyone in the family to work hard toward an upward trajectory.

"That gave me a strong sense of entrepreneurship," Kelley said. Another trait Kelley attributed to his upbringing was his drive to community service. "I always wanted to give back to the community," he said. "Having lived and worked in the neighborhood for over 20 years and having traveled all around the neighborhood talking to people over the past couple of months, I've learned that most people think we have nothing in common with people in other neighborhoods. In my experience, we have many things in common."

Kelley cited neighborhood safety and support for the police, the cost of housing and maintaining good schools. "We all care about being able to afford to continue to live in our neighborhoods. The folks who have lived here a long time helped make the neighborhood what it is today," Kelley said. "It's important to make sure we have good schools so that all kids get a good education regardless of what school they end up in." Kelley talked about the vital role of small businesses, citing his own experience. "I understand the struggles that small businesses have, and I also understand how important those businesses are to our city."

Kelley noted that small business owners in the South End have told him that commercial rents make it very difficult for them to remain viable. "Small businesses support the neighborhood by supplying jobs and by contributing to the uniqueness of the neighborhood," he observed. Kelley drew upon his experience with Menino, which familiarized him with many of the challenges facing the neighborhood and strategies for addressing them.

B/FSNA president Eric Huang recapped the Abbey Group's presentation at the previous meeting on their plans for a mixed office, retail, cultural and open space that would operate on an 18 hour rather than 9 to 5 schedule. Huang told attendees that, having taken their plans to community groups around the South End, the Abbey Group told the South End Forum recently that they found the neighborhood "very receptive" to their plan.

According to Huang, the developers learned that neighborhood concerns center around traffic, transportation and the development being embraced by neighbors as an 18 hour, day and evening destination for neighbors, and the developers will take those thoughts into account when preparing their proposal to the Boston Planning and Development Agency.

Boston Police Department (BPD) D-4 officer Chris Shoulla gave a public safety update, reporting that n activity is down in Villa Victoria and the Lenox Street area, but may rise again during the summer. He urged neighbors with dogs to increase their presence in Franklin Square in order to stem crime and public drunkenness in the park.

Officer Shoulla announced also that D-4 community service officer Jorge Dias was transferred to the Schools Unit and D-4 hopes to have someone to replace him this summer, possibly from among the new recruits. Asked about patrols in Franklin Square, Shoulla said they mostly find older individuals rather than youth lingering in the park and drinking. Responding to a question, Shoulla observed that there are fewer needles in Franklin Square lately.

Huang, who has been working with the South End Forum Task Force on Parking on a plan to revamp parking in the South End, presented the task force's recommendations, formulated in January of this year. The proposal would bring additional metered parking spaces to Washington Street in the Blackstone and Franklin Square area, overnight resident parking at several meters on Harrison Avenue and visitor and resident parking space, marked with signage, on unregulated areas of Shawmut Avenue.

Huang explained that the Forum's aim was to come up with a parking plan that was less "piecemeal" and more "holistic" to the needs of various areas of the South End. He also said that while Washington Street was initially intended to be all metered parking for the benefit of businesses, the area of the Squares was changed to resident parking. The new plan would establish metered parking along the Squares from 8:00 AM-8:00 PM, with no restrictions overnight and move the 16 residential spots to Shawmut Avenue, which is more residential. Huang said that with the influx of new businesses to that area, it would be beneficial to re-establish metered parking there.

Addressing concerns about transparency and seeking public input, Huang said that the task force has been "transparent", posting updates on social media. Despite the low attendance, Huang called for a vote to accept the parking plan and it was approved. Huang will present the plan to the Boston Transportation Department for consideration.

Andrew Parthum, founder of the B/FSNA college book and supply scholarship program, reported that this year's Heart of Gold benefit raised an unprecedented $46,000, and the group is now seeking applications from South End youth. The deadline for applications is May 19 and the ceremony honoring this year's recipients will take place on June 20 at 7:00 PM at the Gallery at Art Block, 752 Harrison Avenue. Details on scholarship requirements and the application are available at www.blackstonefranklin.org.

In small-business news, Jenny Effron, executive director of Washington Gateway Main Street, said that Anoush'ella, the casual, Middle Eastern eatery under development at the corner of West Newton and Washington Streets, is expected to open in July. The owners of Anoush'ella requested a load-in parking space in front of its building during the morning hours at the previous meeting and neighbors were -

Shanon Heckethorn, director of development and communications for Hospitality Homes, which seeks volunteers to host the families and friends visiting patients in local hospitals, explained the mission of the program and the parameters for volunteering. Hosts are expected to provide a place to sleep, bathroom access and linens, and if possible beverages and light breakfast for guests. Heckethorn that volunteer hosts can set schedule such as opting out during periods when they will be away, setting timeframes when guests can be in the home and determining their guest capacity.

"Since it's a volunteer opportunity, we've found that it's best that it always be directed by the host." Heckethorn said that Hospitality Homes offers 24-hour staff support for hosts, check-ins with hosts and community building events for host households. Those who wish to support Hospitality Homes in other ways can join the Community Connections volunteer program, offering a meal or help visiting families in some other manner such as bringing snacks or get-well cards to families visiting patients. Heckethorn concluded, "I realize that space is limited in the South End, but this is a really fabulous way to build community within the community in a way that is unique and very special." Heckethorn urged residents who are interested in participating to visit the organization's web site, www.hosp.org.

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