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Jackson convening Roxbury planning meetings

Says city, developers putting projects ahead of process

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1990 and has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Jackson convening Roxbury planning meetings
City Councilor Tito Jackson is pulling together Roxbury residents Thursday in an effort to begin comprehensive development planning for the neighborhood.

While the Boston Redevelopment Authority is moving forward with its Imagine Boston 2030 initiative aimed at creating a masterplan for Boston’s future, City Councilor Tito Jackson wants Roxbury residents to plan for their own future.

With more than one million square feet, and a mayor who has prioritized housing production, Jackson says he wants his Roxbury neighbors to have greater say in what’s going up in their community.

“We have a broken planning process,” he said. “There’s no consistent process for disposing of vacant land.”

While the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee meets regularly to discuss major development projects in the neighborhood, they only have project review power for nine parcels of land. Currently there are 350 vacant parcels of land of all sizes in Roxbury. Without a master planning process for the neighborhood, Jackson says, key considerations like parking and traffic are often ignored when developers present their plans for smaller parcels of land.

“The current system is based on individual parcels of land, not the larger context of how the community is being developed,” Jackson said.

Roxbury is undergoing a new wave of development, with new housing being built and planned in the Highland Park and Garrison Trotter sections, housing and retail development continuing in Jackson Square and a number of office and residential projects planned for Dudley Square.

Mayor Martin Walsh’s housing plan, which calls for adding 53,000 units of housing by 2030, is almost certain to spur more development in Roxbury, which has more vacant parcels of land than any other neighborhood in the city. Yet there has been no comprehensive planning to determine the effects of the new development on traffic and parking in Roxbury.

“What’s happened in the past is that there has been a developer-led process,” Jackson says. “The development process has to start with the community.”

Because the Roxbury Neighborhood Council has long been defunct, there has been no formal way to gauge neighborhood support for development projects in Roxbury. Relying on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and other city agencies to solicit public opinion doesn’t always work well.

If You Go

What: “Roxbury Planning for Roxbury Residents” meeting

Where: Roxbury Community College, 234 Columbus Ave. Student Center (Building 4), 2nd Floor

When: Thursday, Dec. 3, 6–8 p.m.

Food, child care and translation services will be available

RSVP + survey at

“The relationship you have with the city is almost like the relationship you have with developers,” said Highland Park resident Rodney Singleton. “A lot of times the community and developers are at odds with each other.”

In Highland Park, Singleton and other activists called for a moratorium on the disposition of more than 100 city-owned parcels while residents there develop guidelines on new development.

The Boston 2030 planning process — the city’s first in 50 years — is expected to weave smaller planning processes, like the one Jackson is calling for in Roxbury, into a large, citywide plan.

On Thursday, Jackson will convene the second meeting of his “Reclaim Roxbury” workshop. Titled “Roxbury Planning for Roxbury Residents,” the meeting will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Roxbury Community College Student Center.

In the Roxbury planning process, Jackson is working with Cesar McDowell, a professor with MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, and a group of McDowell’s students. The first meeting convened by Jackson targeted community activists and representatives of community-based organizations and local government.

Thursday’s meeting is open to the public.

“It’s urgent that our community come together and develop a strategy because of the fast changes happening in the real estate market in Boston,” Jackson said. “Boston 2030 is important, but Boston 2016 and Boston 2017 are also important. We have to ensure that the people in this community can stay in this community.”

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