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Walsh moves to increase middle-income housing; will call for higher fees for developers, surcharge on property taxes

UPDATE: The entire plan is now online.

The Boston Business Journal reports on a proposal by Mayor Walsh to add 53,000 new housing units, mainly aimed at the middle class.

Roughly 5,000 of the units would not actually be new but would instead be apartments vacated by the students Walsh says he will get local colleges to house on their campuses or in new dormitories private developers would be encouraged to build near campuses.

Walsh would pay for the housing expansion in part through an increase in the fees developers of luxury units pay to the BRA in lieu of building required "affordable" units. The Herald reports Walsh would also count on voters approving a 1% "community preservation" tax on property-tax payments, an idea they rejected in 2001.

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Community preservation is an apt term, I suppose, for an effort to keep the middle class in the community.

I haven't kept up on the CPA and permissible uses of CPA funds. Perhaps UH readers who know can comment on whether CPA funds can be directed in the manner that the Mayor wishes.

Oh, and does part of the CPA allow for adoption of a tax on real-estate transactions? For some reason, I thought it involved a property-value surcharge of sorts added to property-tax bills.

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I've changed the post to reflect what the Herald actually wrote.

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More taxes and fees! Just what spurs development.

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I'll gladly pay a little more to spur development of middle class housing in the city so maybe some of my friends can afford to stay here.

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This plan makes housing overall LESS affordable as the costs get passed off to everyone else.

ZONING REFORM would fix everything. But that would reduce opportunities for graft if dense multi-family housing was buildable as of right in the neighborhoods where it is desperately needed to meet demand.

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From what I've read, it appears zoning reform like you describe is part of the plan in Main Streets districts.

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This is one of the dumb-assiest schemes I've ever heard.

We pay taxes so that we can maintain developers profit margins and union wages.

Not our job.

Here's a better solution:

a-Massively increase zoning (eg - I would guess if you fully built out residential areas you might get 20% more housing in the city. Increase zoning to double or triple that slack)

b-Put a windfall tax on the increased property values that come from the increased zoning.

c-Use that tax for one of only two things - pay down our oversized retiree pension and health care obligations - and if you somehow manage to get through that, pay down other debt.

Let the market take over from there. As anon points out -the mayor's scheme does absolutely nothing but drive up costs for the rest of us at the expense of unions and developers - talk about a way to curry favor with both the left and the right!

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I thought the CPA was designed to allow cities and towns to afford purchasing open spaces to keep development from happening. Sort of a curbing of over building.
Is that not true?

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Community housing is one of the four allowable uses, along with open space, recreation, and historic preservation.

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Why do we care whether 'middle-income' people live within Boston city limit, or not?

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Even as a relatively well-paid, resentful of union privilege/special interests, and free market guy... there's this thing called solidarity with fellow human beings and not wanting one segment of society to have to live like servants to the rest.

It's a difficult balance to strike, something that San Francisco (and NYC) is completely failing at and we would do well to avoid the absurd zoning restrictions, occupational licensing, rush to expensive regulatory schemes that generally backfire, and high taxes that are crippling that city now and causing all kinds of class conflict - but it is undeniably something worth pursuing as a member of a greater society.

Caring about other people that live around you and work in your coffee shops, supermarket checkout lines, maintaining infrastructure, driving your buses etc matters a lot. I would generally believe much of our legacy regulatory structure has failed to keep pace with changes in society - and are the largest target of reform for fixing things, and encourage our government to take active roles in looking at how things are breaking in this regard so that we can avoid a society of the high-paid and wealthy politicians/politically connected squeezing everyone out of the city (which would be poorer for the loss of cultural variety)

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really, if you drive around Hyde Park or Roslindale are people getting squeezed out en masse? I just don't see it. I don't care if poor people (or middle class people) can still live in the Back Bay or South End or Fenway- rich people condos pay lots of taxes.

I feel like people who talk about people being pushed out of the city are really just saying people are being pushed out of certain parts of the city, which I don't really care about. Why should the city try to get more middle class people living in core neighborhoods?

As other people pointed out, zoning reform is the answer. There are so many places in the city where 3-4 story apt. buildings could be put up but it's all NIMBY all the time.

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I do know people who were "priced out" of Roslindale. It is not that common, and judging by the newer people coming into my neck of Rozzie, I don't think gentrification is something we have to actively fear at this stage.

Stevil usually raises a good point- if people actually want to live in Boston, we need to be able to make sure they have a place to live. If people are enthralled by Roslindale Square or Village or whatever, having low density housing nearby is hurting the situation. I've been going to Fallon Field from the Square a lot in recent months, and for some reason it amazes me that I pass a single family cape, practically across the street from the commuter rail station. Even though part of me would bemoan the changes, allowing for more people will keep the diversity there.

Remember, though, those pushed out of the South End head to Jamaica Plain. Those pushed out of Jamaica Plain head to Roslindale. Those pushed out of Roslindale head to Hyde Park (or Dedham or beyond.) A push at one part of the city will in the end affect the outer areas.

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I just don't see that there is infinite supply of gentrifiers.

At some point, faced with the option to buy a $400k house in Roslindale which isn't in walking distance to the commuter rail or shopping and isn't in a desirable neighborhood or buying a $400k house in Dedham or Milton or Westwood where you don't have all the BPS angst.

As for the existing stock, it's fine and doesn't need to be knocked down. Building stuff like in the underused spaces is where we can get more housing. Like the substation or former gas station projects in Roslindale.

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Walsh is looking for 53,000 units. Let's put 2 people per unit, which means the population would grow by 106,000. I admit, that's a lot of people. Even 53,000 people puts us about the population in 1960. Are there going to be hoards of people looking to live that much closer to downtown who either don't care about BPS or perhaps are excited about a revitalized public school system? Or will we end up overbuilt like Vegas or Miami? Well, we'll probably never get to that level, but who knows?

Like others say, a future where one is either rich or poor is a bad option for Boston. And as far as Roslindale goes, some folk might discover that the Peter's Hill section of the Arboretum is walking distance to the Square. Maybe the T will answer people's dreams and turn the Needham Line to extensions of the Orange (Roslindale and West Roxbury) and Green (Needham) Lines. We've all seen undesirable places become "hot", so who knows what the future brings?

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"Stevil usually raises a good point- if people actually want to live in Boston, we need to be able to make sure they have a place to live."

I want to live in Paris but can't afford it. Should the French government put some rules in place so I can live there?

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I don't think adding housing is unreasonable if there is demand, particularly if people who work for the city are required to live in the city.

The part about moving students back on campus is amusing, though. The reason they have moved off campus is the extreme cost and massive hassle of dorm life, particularly at BU, which shuts its dorms over break times and such. That's fine if you can fly to Cancun and waste your brain, but not if you are in the six-year MD program or have to work. There will need to be some substantial changes to get people onto the campuses.

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Because if you want to live there, they should have you live there so that they can collect taxes, etc. on you living there and all the money you'll spend doing so. This in turn makes it a better place for even others to want to live.

Common services get cheaper for all of us as more people paying the bills for the fixed costs of infrastructure show up.

If one MBTA train can hold 100 people but only 10 people live on its route, getting 90 more people to show up and use it will spread the operating costs over a broader tax base. Fares don't have to be $100 each for 10 people. The fare can be $10 each for 100 people instead. You also gain more insulation from problems of down economy sectors, aging/death, and people moving away for their own reasons.

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than having as many rich people as possible in your city is what you want.

and the whole train argument...if that ever happened..they would shut the line down.

but i dont think it would ever happen because more lower and middle income people being pushed outside the city is going to increase use of public transportation.

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Because rich people do not pay proportionally more in taxes that go to the city. First, our state income tax is not progressive at all. Secondly, we don't have a city tax. The rich don't pay more for city services, don't pay more in local sales tax, don't pay more except for things that don't matter to the city's bankroll.

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If you built a 100 condo building with an average price of 750k per condo versus middle income (250k) building of the same type, you would generate more tax revenue.

And I'm sure rich people spend more money on retail and food taxes, not as significant as real estate taxes, but I'm sure it's something.

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But cities are vibrant because they house a broad cross section of people representing various backgrounds and incomes. The goal is housing should not only be chasing real estate taxes. Cities are for most about commerce and that requires multiple forms of human input.

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Yes, it's happening. This doesn't happen over night, but the City needs to prepare for it. I work in Tech, and it's blowing up in our area (Kendall, Seaport, DTX) because it's getting harder for companies to expand in places like SF, and many in the talent pool (like me) actively don't want to go to SF any more because of the cost is so absurd and the city so deficient at managing it.

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Do we really want Boston to be a "Tale of two Cities with the wealthy living in the downtown highrises and the lower income folks in the outlining neighborhoods?

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Isn't that the case in just about every city? Are the wealthy in NYC living in the bronx and lower income people living in midtown manhattan? Are wealthy SF residents living in the Richmond and Sunset and lower class citizens on Nob Hill/Marina?

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It is the case in a lot of cities. And it's a problem in those cities as well.

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What exactly is the problem?...please be specific.

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In the 60s through 80s it was a tale of two cities...the poor (not all but mostly) living in cities and the wealthy out in the burbs.

Now that is starting to flip.

Was it so horrible back then? Other than the "all rich people are evil" stigma...i haven't heard one decent argument of why it matters if cities have a middle class or lower class or not.

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So the folks who stock the shelves at Whole Foods, clean your office in the financial district, watch your kids at daycare, fix your car, cut your hair, mix your cocktail, etc etc should pay the cost -- both time and money -- of a long commute to make your Disneyland life possible? Because who cares if they can't afford to live here?

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While I agree long commutes are awful but if that is the best reason for all this government intervention and hoopla...that simply is not reason enough.

Does anyone have any other reasons why it is such a bad thing if Boston doesn't have a middle or lower class population? Please be specific

So far we the benefits are:
lower crime rates,
cleaner streets,
better schools,
attracting brilliant people from all over the world,
Long time residents can make great $$$ by renting their places out

The problems are:
Long Commutes for lower and middle income people.

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They are costly, they generate a lot of pollution, lots of wasted time that people might more productively spend supervising their kids, etc. Around here, pollution is less localized than it is in, say, LA so rich and poor alike will get their share. (/pollution scientist hat)

Then there is the problem where, when you have people segregated from people not like them, including economic segregation, serious problems result for society (see also: WalMart).

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We like to talk a lot about how Boston is so compact and walkable, but the truth is that the settlement and commuting pattern of the Boston metro area has much more in common with Los Angeles than New York. We have just over half a million people in the city itself but ten times as many in the surrounding metro area. Considered as a whole, it's a terrible sprawl.

With the late-twentieth century demographics of an American metropolitan area like Boston, the upper middle-class who had fled to the comparatively Wealthy ring suburbs commuted in largely by car, each professional in his own increasingly large vehicle.

If, in the coming years, the poor and lower middle-class are pushed out of Boston to those less wealthy suburbs that will actually allow more development, while more upper middle-class people move into the city itself to live, perhaps the transportation pattern of these new commuters will be different.

Is it possible that there could be a net reduction in pollution if those who once would have commuted in Range Rovers can instead walk to work, while those displaced to Lowell, Framingham, and Brockton commute in by train?

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Added it to the list.

So far we the benefits are:
1. lower crime rates,
2. cleaner streets,
3. better schools,
4. attracting brilliant people from all over the world,
5. Long time residents can make great $$$ by renting their places out
6. Less pollution because lower and middle income folks that are pushed to the burbs will use public transportation and the rich ppl that drive SUV guzzlers will be in the city and will walk.

The problems are:
1. Long Commutes for lower and middle income people.

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1. Eventually, there will be no one willing to do the grunt work, like waiting tables or cleaning offices.
2. The central city increasingly becomes irrelevant. Eventually the relative clout of Boston would be lessened. Why would you care about a place where only "they" (the upper classes for the left, the lower classes for the right) live?
3. For quite opposite reasons, the lower and upper classes are disinterested in things that help the quality of life, like parades and youth sports.

In another part of this post, you ask about places like Wellesley. Well, they do have places were average, ordinary people live. Suburbs develop differently than cities. Dover and Bedford have always had a rural aspect to them. Overdevelopment would be bad, so a certain level of wealth is not bad. Places like Malden, Quincy, and Watertown have developed over a long period with a mix of incomes. Triple deckers were designed to provide housing at low costs- the guy who had it built lived in one unit while the other units were rented out to cover costs. As generations passed, the process was repeated. I know several kids in Roslindale who grew up in 2 family houses. As adults, they moved into the other unit, giving their retired parents help and getting cheap daycare in return. When triple deckers become 3 condos, things go out of wack.

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1. Eventually, there will be no one willing to do the grunt work, like waiting tables or cleaning offices.

People are not being pushed out to Siberia. There are plenty of affordable towns outside of Boston. There are only so many rich people in the world to keep pushing people out.

2. The central city increasingly becomes irrelevant. Eventually the relative clout of Boston would be lessened. Why would you care about a place where only "they" (the upper classes for the left, the lower classes for the right) live?

I don't agree. If anything with more money in the city, Boston would become MORE relevant. Capitalism/money move our economy.

3. For quite opposite reasons, the lower and upper classes are disinterested in things that help the quality of life, like parades and youth sports.

Sorry, but wealthy suburbs have youth sports and really care about quality of life. You should see all the yuppie parents in the South End and South Boston on the soccer fields. And check out Boston's Citizens connect site for all the service requests related to quality of life. But let's say rich people weren't in sports...why does that matter?
And I'd argue that would be a good thing. Kids needs to focus more on academics than sports. Building a statue for a great hockey player but not a great school teacher is ...stupid.

"When triple deckers become 3 condos, things go out of wack."

What do you mean "out of wack"? Other than people living further out and having a long commute.

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Either the jobs for the peons you seem happy to see leave the city won't be worth the commute or the wage structure will be out of wack (or is it whack) with what would be expected.

Then, with a disconnect with the center city in the region, there would be less concern for its well being. Boston would essentially become a tourist attraction.

I don't think I communicated the third point well. Basically, in influx of people driven by wealth would, in my estimation, lead to a denigration of civic life. Why care about the public schools when you can send your kids to private schools. Or, what's to keep these wealthy from just decamping to the suburbs. Yes, this is currently an option and has been so for generations, but in you look at even the toniest of suburbs, there is a core of people "wedded to the earth" who keep civic life active. It is the same way in Boston. Are people in your neighborhood really upset that you are there, or that people they grew up with are priced out? And yes, there are people being priced out as opposed to getting paid.

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I think you're minimizing the long commute concern. Have you ever had to live in and around Boston without a car?

I did for 4 or 5 years. I think I was both the most unhappy and pseudo happy I've been during that time. Happy because I was able to put my headphones on and read or knit while doing my 1 hour ride from JP to Somerville. And I got to ignore the world.

What was miserable, I found, was the walking portion from House to T and from Bus to Office because of rain or non-shoveled sidewalks (my commute was walk, orange line, green line and walk or bus, one way). The amount of time it took to get anywhere was 45 min to 1 hour.

I found myself incredibly resentful of the amount of time public transportation took out of my day.

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Millionaires complaining about being pushed out by billionaires who are never at home: http://pastebin.com/uaJYkjBK

The international super-rich, whose favourite topic of conversation is property, collect houses like a Monopoly game, buying the most expensive houses possible in the most expensive postcodes. In this stratosphere of wealth, the more expensive, the better. The super-rich have flocked to areas such as Belgravia and Knightsbridge, which increases the price of property. But it also pushes up prices in neighbouring areas such as Chelsea and Kensington, and in the neighbourhoods next to them.

It is absurd for me to see my friends, in families with two incomes from big City banks of £500,000, unable to buy a property in central London. These are people who have lived in the Alpha Territory for the past ten years and have moved away to live close to a good state school, because they can no longer afford the fees at private schools.

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Wellesey and Hingam don't have any middle income housing, things are OK there (boring but OK).

If Boston becomes a place where only rich people live, why is that so bad? I can think of a bunch of benefits (lower crime rates, cleaner streets, better schools, attracting brilliant people from all over the world, long time residents can make great $$$ by renting their places out).

It's not like the long time renters who can/t afford the rent now are being made homeless. They are free to move to anywhere and will probably get a lot more for their rent money outside the city.

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Why would there be lower crime? Or are you not including all types of crime? Are the wealthy inherently less criminal?

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Statistics say yes. At least in terms of violent crime.

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the city has a residency requirement for city employees.

I know a low-skilled employee who was looking for work with the city, as the city offers full-time work in a field that generally only hires part-time employees. He calculated that it was more affordable for him to continue on cobbling together multiple part-time jobs and living in a rented room in the suburbs than it would be to accept a full time position with the city and take a rented room within the city's boundaries.

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that has to go! Our workers are employees, not hostages. Nothing good comes of this - people don't have to live here to take pride in their work.

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...yes. the city residency should be removed for some jobs.

One job I can think of where it shouldn't is Police Officer. Why would a cop living in Dedham care about crime in Dorchester? He wouldn't. He would do the bare minimum to make sure he isn't fired.

Like this one:
http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/10/11/three-more-officers-discipli...

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What's the point of hiring someone into a city job if he can't then vote for you?

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What's the point of hiring someone into a city job if he can't then vote for you?

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You get a lower quality police officer because other towns can pay more and let you live in affordable places with nice homes.

About caring vs. getting fired, that would be true whether you were forced to live somewhere nor not right?

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How does adding costs to the already high cost of home ownership make home ownership more affordable?

I'm all for reasonably-priced housing in Boston, but I'm not sure that adding to the cost burden of home ownership accomplishes this. I read an article recently that priced using union labor at an additional $100 per square foot. If you build a 1,000 square foot unit, then you have to already price it $100,000 more than a unit that does not use union labor to build. So a unit which actually costs developers $300,000 now costs them $400,000 just to break even--and this is a big reason why housing in the key $300,000 to $500,000 market is disappearing in new construction in the city. I'm not going to get into the union versus non union labor argument, I just think it's something that's interesting to ponder. I'll try to find the article I read and link it.

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I think this could be a way to lower costs, and unions aren't strong in those areas with helps even more with cost...we shall see how it turns out!

http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/roxbury/2014/01/hold_city_looks_to_s...

City looks to sell slew of vacant Blue Hill Avenue parcels
Posted by Patrick Rosso January 29, 2014 12:57 PM 16
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Sending your articleBy Patrick D. Rosso, Boston.com Staff

The city of Boston has close to 66,000 square feet of vacant land along Blue Hill Avenue in Roxbury and is looking for buyers.

On Tuesday, officials with the Department of Neighborhood Development, which controls the parcels, were in the neighborhood to discuss with residents and business owners their effort to unload the land.

While Tuesday’s meeting concentrated on 11 vacant sites from Moreland Street to Grove Hall, the overall effort includes 25 sites, which extend all the way down Blue Hill Avenue to Franklin Park.

“These sites have been sitting underutilized for too long, and we thought looking at them collectively would allow us to come up with a comprehensive plan and create some energy around Blue Hill Avenue,” said Sheila Dillon, director of the Department of Neighborhood Development.

The ultimate goal is to activate the parcels, increase tax revenue, and bring needed development to the community.

Request for Proposals, DND’s method of selling property, are expected to be developed for the sites, But the department said the process is open-ended with no set plan, program, or schedule for the lots.

“This is just the beginning of a dialogue,” explained Donald Wright, deputy director of DND’s Real Estate Management and Sales. “We want to hear from residents about how to move forward.”

Although the meeting was well attended, participants were largely quiet as they let the information sink in.

“I want to know the investment the city is willing to commit,” said Laura Younger, an area resident. “I’d like to see some investment in affordable homeownership and commercial buildings. Some of the spaces could be used for open space and others could hold housing, but we need a comprehensive plan for investment.”

Other questions ranged from who could bid on the parcels, to how the community could make sure bidders have the neighborhood’s best interest in mind.

“We already have at least one developer who is a problem and we don’t want this individual to benefit from this,” said Jorge Martinez, executive director of Project Right.

The parcels, which were obtained by the city through tax foreclosures, range in size from just over 3,000 square feet to nearly 11,000 square feet. The majority are in zoning districts that allow for two family residential construction as well as local services/commercial space.

Although DND officials said they have not developed a formal vision for the space, they did say that they will be utilizing input gathered from residents and past initiatives like the Blue Hill Avenue Task Force, to begin the process of developing a plan for the spaces.

Tuesday’s meeting was just the first in what city officials believe will be a lengthy process to bring movement to the area, which as of late has seen a surge in public investment, especially around Quincy Street, something residents thought could help add energy to DND’s efforts.

“With all the development going on in the area people will start to see that and want to come to the table and invest here,” said Martinez.

DND officials will now begin the process of developing a formal dialogue around the spaces. A follow up meeting is expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

Below is a list of the properties discussed at Tuesday’s meeting:

63 and 65 Blue Hill Ave. - 2,442 square feet
190-190A and 192 Blue Hill Ave. - 6,047 square feet
230-231A Blue Hill Ave. - 3,613 square feet
235-239 Blue Hill Ave. - 5,779 square feet
238 Blue Hill Ave. - 2,750 square feet
281A-299 Blue Hill Ave - 11,504 square feet
309-309B Blue Hill Ave. - 3,432 square feet
328-328A and 330-334 Blue Hill Ave. - 11,373 square feet
353-359 Blue Hill Ave. - 3,886 square feet
376-384 Blue Hill Ave. - 11,475 square feet
391-393 and 395 Blue Hill Ave. - 3,362 square feet

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Have fun with that. Great place for middle class families to live.

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Won't pass, plain and simple. If Walsh pushes this hard enough it will possibly cost him re-election, as well.

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