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Full speed ahead with Tremont Crossing

Melvin B. Miller

Boston is being rebuilt. On the waterfront, new hotels, office towers and apartment buildings have changed its character. The waterfront has become the Innovation and Design District. Now it is time for a transformation in Roxbury. The Tremont Crossing development plan has the overwhelming support of the Roxbury community and the people anticipate the support of Mayor Marty Walsh for the plan when it comes before the Boston Redevelopment Authority this week for an extension of the developers’ designation.

Elders who have lived here for decades remember when Roxbury was an important shopping destination. Ferdinand’s was once Boston’s largest furniture store. A number of department stores were located along Washington Street in the Dudley Square area. Then the advent of the shopping mall made Dudley Square obsolete.

The urban renewal planners decided in the 1960s that Tremont Street around Roxbury should be razed and rebuilt as highway I-95. Community opposition ended plans for the highway but the decimation proceeded. Since 1968, an extensive area of Roxbury along Tremont Street and Melnea Cass Blvd. was laid bare.

Then the late Elma Lewis, founder and director of the National Center for Afro-American Artists, proposed an ingenious plan for the development of the site. The NCAAA would join with professional real estate developers to form P3 Partners, LLC. Revenue from the project would contribute to the financial operation of the non-profit NCAAA.

P3 Partners developed a plan that has generated considerable enthusiasm from those who have learned of it. In addition to providing shopping convenience, it will be a point of pride for Roxbury residents. Tremont Crossing will be Roxbury’s downtown. And with the Dudley Square development only a block or so away, this part of the city will regain its importance.

Included in the plan are BJ’s Wholesale Club, a major sports and outdoor equipment retailer, a national cinema chain, a health and fitness club, a major clothing retailer, and a number of local retailers. As with any such development, some of the tenants might change in the lease negotiations. It is not like designing the Taj Mahal with a single purpose. However, the developers are moving in the right direction.

Roxbury has seen a decline in significant commercial development for 60 years. People have waited for decades for a breakthrough like Tremont Crossing. The only sensible decision is to move forward with P3 Partners, LLC. Any other approach would lead to unacceptable and chaotic delay, or the death of the project. Roxbury must be part of Boston’s rebuilding.