Mattapan seeks greater say in development
Residents will hold elections for Mattapan Neighborhood Council
With proposals for two marijuana dispensaries, two large development projects that could bring more than 200 new housing units to Mattapan Square and a slew of smaller condo projects that local residents say are putting pressure on the neighborhood’s rental market, Mattapan residents are looking for a greater role in planning.
To that end, neighborhood activists are holding an election on Feb. 23 for the newly-formed Mattapan Neighborhood Council.
Organizer Fatima Ali-Salaam says the pressure developers are putting on the local real estate market is among the reasons she decided to join her Mattapan neighbors’ efforts to launch the council.
“I grew up in Mattapan,” she said. “I have a daughter who’s a Boston school teacher. You want your own children to be able to live here, but you’re seeing people move out of the city to find affordable homes.”
Neighborhood Councils were originally established during the mid-1980s when Raymond Flynn served as Boston mayor. The Flynn administration recognized five such councils, including ones in Roxbury, Codman Square, Chinatown and Jamaica Plain. The Boston Redevelopment Authority, as the Boston Planning and Development Agency was then known, gave the neighborhood councils primacy in gauging and expressing neighborhood reaction to development projects. The councils do not have the authority to approve or reject development projects.
Currently, the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council is the most active of the groups, with five at-large members and 15 members elected to represent three separate areas in the neighborhood.
Ali-Salaam said the Mattapan Neighborhood Council would follow a similar breakdown of at-large and district seats. The new council would also allow for non-elected members to weigh in on projects, although such members would not have the power to vote. Stakeholders such as business owners and leaders of nonprofits in Mattapan could join as members.
Rising development pressure
The push for a neighborhood council comes as Mattapan is facing several large projects that promise to change the fabric of the neighborhood.
“In the past year-and-a-half, projects have just started popping up,” said Mimi Ramos, executive director of New England United for Justice, a group that organizes Mattapan residents.
Among the largest development projects coming to Mattapan:
- Cote Village This mixed-use development on Cummins Highway has BPDA board approval for 76 residential units along with retail and office space. The 100,000-square-foot development is led by a partnership between the nonprofits Planning Office for Urban Affairs and Caribbean Integration Community Development and financed by the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust.
- Mattapan Station Development This 119,000-square-foot project, approved by the BPDA board, would include 135 residential units in addition to ground-level retail space. The project will be built at the site of a surface parking lot next to the Mattapan MBTA station. The project is being developed by Nuestra Comunidad Community Development Corporation and Preservation of Affordable Housing.
- Economy Plumbing and Heating Supply The plumbing wholesaler is seeking a 778,000-square-foot expansion of its Morton Street building.
- 1199-1203 Blue Hill Avenue Developer George Minasidis received BRA board approval to build a four-story, 21-unit residential building with a restaurant space on the ground floor.
While many have their eyes on these major projects, a plethora of smaller developments in Mattapan are also putting pressure on local residents, says neighborhood activist Allentza Michel, who notes that a triple-decker on Morton Street is listed for $830,000. “The building has had no renovations since the 1960s,” she said.
Rising real estate values are pushing up rents and property tax bills, she added.
Michel said developers’ insistence on building high-end projects is creating an imbalance in Mattapan.
“We’re not against new development, but you have to have balance,” she said. “The city can’t function in a healthy way if you don’t have balance.”
The BPDA has also launched a PLAN: Mattapan process, similar to those it has undertaken in Jamaica Plain, Dudley Square and in the Glover’s Corner section of Dorchester. Such plans give neighborhood residents, real estate developers and local stakeholders the opportunity to weigh in on zoning questions that determine what can be built where in a neighborhood.
Neighborhood councils, however, give neighborhoods like Mattapan, which has 15 smaller neighborhood associations, an amplified voice at the table.
“We want to bring together the entire community to make decisions and recommendations,” Ali-Salaam said.
Ali-Salaam said the Mattapan Neighborhood Council will use the BPDA-defined Greater Mattapan Neighborhood District as its boundaries. The boundaries include Harvard Street, Walk Hill Avenue and Canterbury Street in the west, all of Franklin Park, and Seaver Street to the Fairmount Line in the north. The eastern border follows the Fairmount Line to Morton Street, then Maryknoll Street to River Street. The Neponset River is the southern border (lookup the agency’s Zoning Viewer on the BPDA for an interactive map).
Members of the committee planning to launch the neighborhood council will hold an information session Jan. 22 at the Mildred Avenue Community Center from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Nomination papers with 25 signatures of Mattapan residents must be submitted to the committee by Feb. 9 for candidates to run in the Feb. 23 election.