They come with different motivations and agendas, but members of the Blue Hill Ave/Cummins Hwy Working Advisory Group showed one consistent theme at the first meeting of the group: they know people want to shop, work, and play in Mattapan Square.
The mayor appointed group, which aims to develop a long-term strategy for the area surrounding the yet to be completed Blue Hill Avenue Fairmount Commuter Rail station, held its first meeting Thursday night in Mattapan.
Made up of non-profit leaders, local residents, and business owners, the 14-member group will work closely with the Fairmount Indigo Planning Initiative’s Corridor Wide Advisory group as it adds the area’s voice to the massive planning initiative.
Launched in early-2012, the Fairmount Indigo Planning Initiative aims to develop long-term economic development strategies for communities surrounding the 9.2-mile rail line that reaches from South Station to Hyde Park.
One neighborhood group, in addition to the Blue Hill group, has already been formed in Uphams Corner and advisory groups for the Four Corners Station and Talbot Avenue Station are expected to be announced in 2014.
On Thursday members of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the agency leading the initiative, laid out the area of focus, its demographics, and what exactly the group will be tackling.
Many on the advisory group were all too familiar with the issues the neighborhood routinely faces, but said they were excited to begin the process of revitalization.
“There have been efforts to revitalize the community that started out strong, but haven’t been sustained,” explained Lincoln Lamond, a member of the advisory group. “We talk about how Mattapan is a gateway. When you think about a gateway you need something that represents that.”
“We want a robust square so we don’t have to get into our cars and spend our money in other communities,” added Barbara Fields, a local resident.
“I want Mattapan to be a place where families can not only live and work, cut can come to and feel they are in someplace special,” said Corey Allen, a member of the advisory group and the president of the Cummins Valley Neighborhood Association.
The group will focus exclusively on the area around the MBTA's planned station, which is expected to begin construction in 2015, according to Jeremy Rosenberger, a planner with the BRA.
Designs for the station are currently under review, due to concerns from immediate neighbors.
From how to connect commuters to the station to how to get them to shop in Mattapan Square, over the next few months, the group will look for ways to stimulate growth and increase business traffic.
“Half of this process is about drawing people to this line,” said Rosenberger. “Often people think this isn’t for them...It will be able to get you to downtown in 20 minutes.”
One particular property at the top of the agenda was the Cote Ford parcel, a sprawling decaying complex made up of a six non-contiguous sites off of Cummins Highway and Regis Road. Although the largest parcels that make up the property are owned by the city, a few of the smaller adjacent parcels are owned by Cummins Development Company, LLC, a private group.
Rosenberger said the city has made efforts to contact the owner, but has not been able to.
The largest parcels, once home to a car dealership, are located adjacent to the Fairmount Commuter Rail Line and the planned station, prime location for transit oriented development, according to planners.
Neighbors said the property, which has been vacant since at least 1993, is a headache.
“For most of the 40-years I’ve lived in Mattapan it’s [Cote Ford] been vacant and I’d like to see something happen there,” said Virginia Parks, an area resident.
Proposals for the property have been floated in the past, such as one in 2008 by the non-profit Community Builders, for construction of a four-story structure for 62 residential units, retail space, open space, and community space. The plan, however, fizzled.
“I’d like to see something at Cote Ford,” said Steven Kelley, a Mattapan resident. “It would be nice to see it change into something that can benefit the whole community.”
Although there are no proposals for the property on the table at the moment, the BRA and the Department of Neighborhood Development, which manages the property, are actively seeking to sell it.
Drawings by the BRA's consultant, The Cecil Group, showed scenarios that included five-story structures on Cummins Highway, ground-floor retail, and new residential units.
Comments taken from Thursday's meeting and a planned October meeting are expected to be used by DND as it begins its own separate community process to develop a Request for Proposal for the site.
A larger meeting to introduce the initiative and advisory group to the community is expected to be held sometime in late-October/early-November.
More information about the Blue Hill Ave/Cummins Hwy Working Advisory Group and the Fairmount Indigo Planning Initiative can be found here.