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Quincy shifts focus to Wollaston as next neighborhood for redevelopment

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  March 11, 2013 12:57 PM

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The path is one Quincy officials have been down before - analyzing a city district with an eye toward improvement, planning out how best to make it thrive.

Yet this time, it isn’t Quincy Center that planners have their eye on, but its neighborhood to the north, Wollaston.

“It’s a similar planning process to what we did in Quincy Center, but on a smaller scale,” said the city’s principal planner, Kristina Johnson. “This is how all communities attack redevelopment. You have to have a vision first.”

Quincy officials have been working with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) since November coming up with that vision, which will provide ways to kickstart growth in the Wollaston neighborhood.

A section of Quincy centered around Beale Street, Hancock Street, and Newport Ave, the neighborhood boasts its own MBTA Red Line stop, nearby residential neighborhoods, and a bustling business district, all factors that officials say make the area ripe for change.

According to Johnson, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council approached the city to do a study for the area, using money from a $4 million federally funded Sustainable Communities Grant

“[MAPC] felt Wollaston had the most potential…given the location of the T, density, strong commercial core, etc,” Johnson said.

Thus far, the study is mainly doing the prep work for a longer-term effort to bring new business to the Quincy neighborhood.

“They are doing all the technical work the city doesn’t have time to do,” Johnson said. “Conducting a built out analysis, conducting a market analysis. [We] need to know what conditions there are, what could be achieved under zoning, and provide the city with options to address land use [issues] to carry out redevelopment.”

Another part of the effort is to receive neighborhood feedback for what the locals would want to see. A meeting in November started that process, which was recently continued in a March neighborhood meeting.

“Folks wanted to be able to walk to the T, but also on their way home at night walk and do their errands and walk home without having to get in the car,” Johnson said.

According to Planning Director Dennis Harrington, the time is now to undertake these kinds of projects.

“The demographics are swinging toward housing in places that have transit, and we have the benefit of transit in the city of Quincy,” Harrington said. “As people decide to live in an urban setting rather than suburban, which is the way trends are swinging, Quincy’s potential is much more obvious and we’re ready to tap into it.”

Though all signs point to some kind of action, the efforts are the start of what will be a long-term effort, officials said.

“If you go back and look at what we did in Quincy Center, it took years,” Johnson said. “This is a 10 year planning process. That’s what this is. This isn’t we’re going to get a developer on board next week. This is a planning process that takes a long time to put in place because you want to make sure it’s the right vision.”

If development were to occur, it would most likely happen alongside the redevelopment in Quincy Center.

Doing the two concurrently was important for Mayor Thomas Koch, Johnson said.

“The mayor is very committed to ensuring though we have this $1.6 billion redevelopment in Quincy center, he hasn’t lost sight of the important neighborhood districts,” she said. “Quincy is a compilation of neighborhoods…and the mayor hasn’t lost sight of that. Keep your eyes on all the other neighborhoods while Quincy center is being developed.”

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