The Boston Redevelopment Authority officially unveiled its Fairmount Indigo Planning Initiative to the greater community Saturday afternoon at the Salvation Army Kroc Center in Uphams Corner.
Providing background on the plan and opening the forum up to discussion, residents got a taste of the initiative that aims to guide development and transform the 9.2-mile corridor that the Fairmount commuter rail runs through.
Cutting through Hyde Park, Mattapan, Dorchester, and Roxbury, the line, which was constructed in 1855, connects area residents to downtown Boston via South Station.
The MBTA, a partner on the project, is also in the process of constructing new stations. The T recently opened a station on Talbot Avenue and new stations are expected to open throughout 2013 and 2014. A station in Four Corners on Washington Street is expected to open in April 2013 and the Newmarket Station should be up and running by June 2013. A fourth station on Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan is still in the design phase.
Eventually a plan and set of guidelines will be developed for the entire corridor and surrounding neighborhoods, laying out ways to boost economic and social development as well as neighborhood specific goals the community has developed through the process.
“We want to improve the public realm so private investment can come in,” Jeremy Rosenberger, a project manager for the BRA, told the close to 200 residents who attended Saturday’s forum. “We want to make sure there are sustainable neighborhoods centered around transit stops.”
Members of the CAG and various community organizations also highlighted their neighborhoods during the forum, discussing what in their community works and what could be improved.
Many highlighted the cultural values of the community and the need to keep rents affordable for residents who currently reside in the communities. Residents also discussed ways to bring new business and industry to the areas.
While the CAG and BRA have a lot of work ahead of them, Saturday's meeting centered around brainstorming and finding out exactly what residents think works and what doesn't for their communities.
“I think the code enforcement efforts and sign guidelines are certainly helpful,” said Jane Howard, an area resident, during the smaller group discussions.
Residents highlighted the businesses in the community that invested in their storefronts, with many agreeing that uniform and clean signs can make a difference in a commercial district.
“Environmental cleanup is incredibly important in all these goals,” Dr. Azzie Young, president and CEO of the Mattapan Community Health Center suggested Saturday.
Dr. Young wasn’t the only one Saturday with green on her mind. Many highlighted the current efforts by the Fairmount Greenway Project to bring more parks and green space to the corridor. Others also highlighted the importance of open space to the community especially in the more densely populated neighborhoods of Dorchester and Roxbury.
Many residents dreamed Saturday about what the initiative and investment could mean to their neighborhoods, but the group and the initiative still faces challenges, from attracting investment to boosting ridership on the line.
“I think the biggest thing is we’re going to drive up ridership and use,” said Representative Russell Holmes, who attended Saturday’s forum and represents a good portion of the corridor.
Holmes said part of the challenge will be making residents aware of the resource running through their back yards.
“We need to make people more aware of it,” said Homes. “It’s a much better alternative than driving and brings back what was lost when the Orange Line was taken out of the community. I see nothing but wins.”
But the T still faces the challenge of getting people into the train’s seats. Ridership has decreased since 2008, according to the BRA’s consultant the Cecil Group, but Holmes thinks once the stations are up and running it won’t be a challenge finding passengers.
“Ridership is down because people aren’t aware of it [the line],” said Holmes. “I think once the train and stations are up and running people will start using it because it’s a much better alternative than what we have.”