Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh spoke at this week’s Wharf District Council meeting including an extended Q&A session with residents and business owners.
Walsh emphasized Boston’s population growth and continuing need for housing. He highlighted strong demand for the city with companies moving here like General Electric, LEGO and a bid going out for the next Amazon headquarters. The Mayor addressed questions over luxury housing versus moderate / low-income units, noting the increased requirement that developers contribute 18% of the value of new units (up from 13%) to build off-site affordable housing. The recently passed Community Preservation Act also adds $20 million per year, some of which is dedicated toward affordable units. He noted that Boston has 20% of its housing stock considered affordable versus 15% in Cambridge and only 4% in Newton, implying that other communities need to step up.
There was limited discussion regarding the Chiofaro development tower to replace Harbor Garage, which remains under State review as part of the Municipal Harbor Plan. However, development and traffic congestion were a consistent theme during the session. The Mayor said he was prioritizing the Old Northern Avenue Bridge reconstruction (with cars) and working with State officials on the MBTA. “The Seaport was obviously not built with a traffic plan in place,” he said noting the limitations of the Silver Line and the side effect of growth in Boston. He agreed with a resident that more traffic cops could help to enforce “don’t block the box” laws.
Homelessness and drug addiction were discussed as residents asked for more visible police prescence. Walsh said that his administration has found housing for 1,100 former homeless persons and city agencies continue to work on innovative programs with shelters such as Rosie’s Place, Pine Street Inn and St. Francis House. He pointed to a 14% reduction in crime incidents over the past 3 years and a 16 year low in homicides (41 year-to-date). Boston Police Captain Ken Fong was in attendance and gives a report at the monthly Wharf District Council meetings.
The need for climate change infrastructure was raised several times, requiring higher sea walls around Boston’s downtown in the near-term and more extensive solutions beyond that. Waterfront development was discussed with only four major spaces for new projects downtown (Harbor Garage, Hook Lobster, Whiskey Priest and Lewis Wharf). He agreed with a premise of a question that there is only limited public benefit to come as mitigation for such development.
Following Mayor Walsh, Robyn Reed gave a presentation on her “Changing Course” art installation in Christopher Columbus Park. Robyn is a local artist and the Park Art Curator for the Friends of Christopher Columbus Park. See this previous post for more on the installation.
The Wharf District Council (WDC) is a 501(C)4 non-profit neighborhood organization, recognized by the Mayor’s Office and the City of Boston as representing the community on matters relating to planning, development, construction, programming events and transportation in the District. It serves as the Wharf District’s voice in matters that require a community opinion and/or action. The membership is made up of residents, hotels, non-profit institutions, small businesses and A Better City, representing the major businesses in the District. For more information on the Wharf District Council please visit here.