Looking for a Shared Vision

Like many neighborhoods throughout Boston and major cities across the nation, East Boston is experiencing a period of rapid growth and change. Surrounded by water and accessible by the MBTA’s Blue Line, East Boston’s diversity, vibrant communities, active parks and open space, and strong network of non-profit and civic groups continue to make the neighborhood an attractive place to live for both new Bostonians and life-long residents.

While this growth holds promise, change can also be difficult, particularly if it is not well planned. Increasingly, we’ve heard from residents and businesses throughout East Boston concerned about the impact of this rapid rate of growth. In response, Mayor Walsh is launching PLAN: East Boston. Guided by Imagine Boston 2030, this initiative will provide an opportunity to continue working in partnership with the community to ensure that in East Boston we preserve wisely, enhance equitably, and grow inclusively.

PLAN: East Boston will be a comprehensive planning initiative facilitated by the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) planning team and supported by staff from across city departments. The planning team will work alongside the community of East Boston to determine a shared vision and goals for the future of the neighborhood. Together, we will prioritize maintaining the neighborhood’s diversity and inclusivity by identifying strategies to create and maintain housing that is accessible to a range of income levels, in order to provide pathways to opportunity and to prepare for climate change.

As we embark on this process, it is important to understand what planning seeks to achieve. Under Mayor Walsh’s leadership, planning focuses on developing a shared vision for a community and is grounded in listening to stakeholders and engaging in productive dialogue.  The goal of planning is to build on a neighborhood’s strengths and produce a framework to shape the future of a neighborhood collectively. Almost always, planning includes tradeoffs and compromise.

East Boston is ready for updated planning. The neighborhood’s most recent Master Plan was published 18 years ago and the neighborhood was last rezoned 27 years ago.

PLAN: East Boston will be shaped by listening to the diverse perspectives of East Boston. As a team, we will work diligently to engage local residents and business owners, neighborhood associations and civic groups, and other stakeholders in setting priorities for PLAN: East Boston.

It is anticipated that the planning framework and future zoning changes will focus on three core strategies: preserve, enhance, grow. Elements for discussion will include: preservation of the existing residential fabric, enhancement of the vitality of existing residential communities and businesses, anti-displacement strategies for residents and businesses, connectivity along the waterfront, mobility around the neighborhood, open space, and flood protection and climate resiliency.

We believe in a meaningful process above a set timeline and end date. While each initiative has a unique set of questions it seeks to address, the process generally follows four phases –  inquiry, visioning, plan framework, and implementation. We will work through these phases in a participatory process with the community, that is inclusive and accessible to a range of stakeholders, strives to benefit its residents and businesses, and identifies which areas to preserve, enhance, and grow.

We look forward to starting this conversation at an information session about PLAN: East Boston on September 25 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Mario Umana Academy. We invite you to join us to meet the planning team, to share your ideas and to learn about the planning process, the Interim Planning Overlay District (IPOD) and how you can get involved.

We need everyone’s voices at the table as we work to maintain a neighborhood where our residents and small businesses can thrive, and hope you will join us on September 25, as we begin this important collaboration to establish a framework for the future of East Boston.

Sara Myerson is the Director of Planning, Boston Planning & Development Agency

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