In response to the development boom in the neighborhood, District 1 City Councilor Lydia Edwards plans to introduce an order at the City Council calling for a hearing regarding an East Boston Master Plan.
An East Boston Master Plan will provide a framework for new growth and development in the community’s commercial districts and waterfront area, while preserving and enhancing the quality of life in the community’s residential neighborhoods.
“When we are dealing with the amount of new development we experiencing now, and every project seems to be a new idea, a height or a new density, variances tend to become the rule and not the exception,” said Edwards. “What people say we are developing is ‘spot zoning’ and it is not a cohesive vision for our community. But a Master Plan provides that cohesive vision and allows us to drive the bus and not be driven by it.”
The last Master Plan for the neighborhood was finished almost two decades ago in 2000 and while many of the recommendations like the creation of new open space, waterfront development and mixed-use development the neighborhood has been clamoring for an updated Master Plan in order to keep up with the fast growth of development.
“The Master Plan is 18 years old and does not reflect the actual modern needs of the community and many “Eastie” residents feel that development is happening to them, not for them or their children,” said Edwards. “East Boston’s last Master Plan was completed 18 years ago and since that time, East Boston has changed immensely and for too many without a common clear goal or vision.”
With the 163-acre Suffolk Downs site slated for a massive development by HYM Investment Llc and pockets of Eastie’s waterfront down by Condor Street and Border Street ripe for future development, Edwards feels the time is right to update the Master Plan.
“East Boston is currently experiencing rapid growth, intense development pressures, traffic congestion, and sea-level rise and flooding,” explained Edwards. “Rents are rising to a degree that threatens the permanent displacement of neighborhood residents while homeownership opportunities are decreasing. Traffic congestion, exacerbated further by new development and an underfunded public transportation system, is negatively impacting neighborhood quality of life.”
Edwards argues that Eastie is lacking a comprehensive transportation, traffic and parking plan, accommodating the need to reduce congestion and vehicle emissions. She added that the community needs to promote sustainable transportation such as walking, biking, MBTA bus and subway services and an Eastie ferry, as well as adequate parking for residents, teachers, health care workers and other essential purposes.
“Resilience may require changes to zoning, new investment, cooperation across private property lines and publicly-owned land,” she said. “Preserving Boston’s history and promoting stable, affordable and resilient housing for Boston’s residents requires purposive and coordinated action by city government that is led by the residents of the impacted neighborhood. The Master Planning process could be a way to build community, build buildings and build trust between city residents, city departments, and developers if the community is at the table to help shape a realistic vibrant growing community.”
Edwards’s order will direct the appropriate committee of the Boston City Council to hold a hearing in Eastie to discuss the creation of a Master Plan and that city departments such as the Department of Neighborhood Development, Boston Transportation Department, Parks and Recreation, Boston Housing Authority, neighborhood and civic groups, the area Community Development Corporations, the Boston Planning and Development Agency, and any other interested parties will be invited to attend.
“A Master Plan will provide East Boston with the clarity and guidance to move forward in an age of rapid development,” said Rep. Adrian Madaro. “With a comprehensive, community-driven Master Plan, we can ensure that the fabric and character of our neighborhood are maintained and that private development and public infrastructure work in harmony. This is an important step to realizing a lively, affordable, and diverse East Boston for years to come.”