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At BRA planning session, Jamaica Plain residents insist: Keep JP quirks

The Jamaica Plain News reports on a BRA session at English High on coming up with long-range plans for the Washington Street corridor. The top resident priority was affordable housing.

The second most significant value that emerged was summed up by one table - keep Jamaica Plain weird.

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Demanding more housing yet running around like lunatics when someone builds something (Home For Little Wanderers).

Demanding better transit but wants to force out the primary bus garage for the southwest part of the city. They don't want that dirty bus garage that has been used for transit related use since 1909. Send it to where the poor people live has been some of the suggestions.

Have a neighborhood association that claims to be part of city government but when it comes to accountability claims not to be subject to normal controls and responsibility.

Claims Egleston as part of the neighborhood except when the bullets fly.

Treats Jamaica Pond as if was somehow part of some Ganges like aquarian Arcadia when it is just a pond like thousands more in the state.

I think they've got the weird thing down pat.

Good Luck Roslindale. They're bleeding in. 10 years from now the fight over what type of kale to plant on the Fallon Field organic urban wild should be epic.

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Are you talking about the bus yard on Washington street? The one that has been there for about 15 years? The MBTA said they were gonna build a garage there and then turn acres of land over for development over 10 years ago but it hasn't happened. People should be happy that the MBTA hasn't lived up to their end of the deal? Do you really think a huge parking lot is the best use for an area seeing a construction boom?

There is more than one person in JP. If one person wants more housing and then another person objects to a certain development it is not a contradiction. And different maps of Boston show different neighborhood boundaries and Egleston is certainly near the border.

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15 years... seriously? The MBTA bus yard, known as the Arborway Yard (named after the road which the now-demolished Casey Overpass carried) has been in that location since the early 1900s. For a very short period of time, the Orange line had a feeder track that allowed trains to reach a surface storage and repair shop. In those days the Orange line was on an elevated steel structure that went down the middle of Washington Street. That shop was later built at the south end of the track ending near Hyde park ave and Walk Hill Street. That vacant land there was once the Orange Line shops.

Arborway yard served as a streetcar and bus storage and repair facility for quite a long time. In fact when the current Forest hills station was built in the mid-80s (and Orange line depressed into the current trench) the streetcar tracks were routed through it. That's why there were streetcar tracks where you boarded the #39 bus. It was originally intended to be a continuation of the streetcar "E" line, which the MBTA later reneged on restoring after the station construction. The "E" line now stops at Heath Street. It originally continued to Forest Hills/Arborway.

After the streetcar and bus repair shops were demolished and the operations moved elsewhere, the current configuration emerged as a bus storage and fueling facility. The intent has been to make this more permanent from the "temporary" configuration. Note "configuration" is a key word here. There has never been any plan to move this yard elsewhere. That was the mindset of other people who would like to see this area changed from an industrial zone to a residential or mixed zone.

Indeed the suggestion to move it to American Legion Highway will conflict with *that* neighborhood's efforts to keep the proposed land an urban wild, pitting neighbor against neighbor. Awesome.

So to be clear the current configuration is at least 25-30 years old but goes back decades before that as a bus and streetcar marshaling yard.

The evolution of housing and other businesses in that area were the result of people seeking to live or work near a transit hub, an idea which is not new what so ever but currently getting a lot of vibe as "transit-oriented development," a new buzz phrase suggesting a new idea but actually a concept that goes back to the wild west and steam trains, and possibly earlier still.

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And the development of parts of the Woodbourne area as convenient-to-work homes for "motormen" and their families. http://www.jphs.org/locales/2004/1/1/woodbourne-historic-district.html

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Yes 15 years. As in the current deal was struck 15 years ago and before that it wasn't a bus yard. The MBTA was supposed to give 8 acres back to the city for development in 2003. It is 2015 and it still hasn't happened and it is a waste of valuable space.

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Ummm, that has been there my whole life and I am over 40.

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To be fair, the project at home for little wanderers turned out completely hideous. And, having watched it go up, is probably going to see some severe issues in a few years when the shoddy construction starts showing.

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I realize there are people who think Natural Law demands that every inch of a city be developed for maximum property tax extraction. Much like John Costello seems to. Some people who agree with him live in JP. Some people who disagree with him also live in JP. They all get to weigh in when the BRA holds a planning session concerning the neighborhood. One thing that can be said: there is no hive mind in JP.

JP has almost 40,000 people. That's about 13,000 more than the South End, about 10,000 more than the town of Milton, 10,000 more than Rozzie, more than Allston but about the same as Fenway. My point being, no matter how much John Costello wishes it, he has no particular insight into how anyone thinks except John Costello. JP isn't a handful of people.

I've lived in JP most of the past 25 years. In that time, housing purchase prices have skyrocketed. The number of rental units has dropped by over 3500 (at least) in JP alone, just as the city has shed rental units and lost price controls. I don't have time to delineate the problems this has caused right now. However, I am one of the people who wants more housing-- more affordable housing-- in JP. We don't need more high-end housing.

I have no pony in this race. I own my condo. If anything, I am potentially devaluing my own property by wanting less expensive housing nearby. I don't care. I'm not here to get rich off my condo. I'm here to live.

And, no, I'm not rich already. My partner's dad is an ex-cop, mine is a farmer, and neither of our mothers earned more than our dads. We won't inherit much. And my household income is less than $90,000 a year. So if you're about to pull up some trope about JP being all wealthy, let it go.

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who I've never met. Or who knows--maybe I have. Anyway, I always love your posts--thank you.

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Then build more of it. Doesn't matter what kind. Just build. This is economics 101. Adding to the supply to meet demand reduces the price for everyone.

If there's a demand for luxury housing, build that. People who want luxury housing will move out of older housing, thus reducing competition for the older housing and stabilizing prices.

If there's a demand for moderately priced housing, let developers build that. That means letting them do things that keep costs down. Higher density. Taller buildings. Fewer parking spots. Smaller units. Less outdoor space for residents. Faster permitting times. Extended construction hours. All of those things add to the costs of development. And yet the "affordable housing advocates" are often the very same people who want low density, high parking, dozens of neighborhood meetings, etc., etc.

If you really want more affordable housing on that corridor, fight for an easy permitting process that will let high density projects with limited housing fly through in record time. In return, ask developers to target specific rents or prices. Work with developers to understand the cost structures of development and work collaboratively lower costs so that the end results can be more affordable. Don't be another know nothing "advocate" with an axe to grind who shows up at these meetings demanding financially impossible projects.

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I like JP fine, though I don't go there very often any more since moving to Roslindale. It never seemed very weird to me though, like pretty much all of Boston. I'd generalize that there are more younger people than in Roslindale due to the better service by the T and greater density of apartments. That's also true of Mission Hill, Allston, Brighton, etc... I feel like there are more trustifarians in JP, but IDK if that's really true.

What's an example?

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JP has a new(at least in terms of owner and location) video store. That might be weird?

I think JP is fairly insular since there is no huge corporation, university etc and there are leftover emotions from the time residents fought to save the neighborhood from being ruined by putting a highway right through it and that creates a sort of independence and resistance to outside forces. There are words I would use to describe JP before "weird".

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can remember the trauma of urban decay and violent crime wave that began in this period. Many also remember how the violent street crime issue was basically covered up in the 70s, 80s into the 90s, pre-internet revolution. The media of that era, along with city government concerned with especially property values (real estate interests are one of the top 3 special interest groups, and campaign contributors), were complicit in, dare I use the word conspiracy, in this egregious whitewash of what was a terrible tragedy, not just for JP and Boston, but urban America in general.

BTW:

That land that was going to be used for I-695 sat empty, desolate, decayed from the edge of the South End up to Forest Hills for DECADES.

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I-695 was the inner belt, I-95 was the southwest expressway.

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Something other than the place in Egleston?

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and it is awesome and weird. I know the folks in Hyde Square miss it but we love having it here and Kevin is great--the quality of our movie-watching has risen in a huge way.

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It was different and awesome when I was growing up there in the 70's and 80's. Now it's just like any other place that ppl think they "found" and made "better".

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I was just thinking the same thing. I love JP but I'm not sure weird is the right adjective. Someone is just jumping on the "keep *blank* weird" bandwagon. There are much stranger and quirkier places than JP. Up until 2012 public nudity was legal in San Francisco. I've met people in both Portland, OR and Austin, TX who use a penny-farthing (old timey bike with the big wheel) as their main bike for commuting. A sense of community, a high concentration of activist/social justice types, and local businesses makes for a nice place to live, but not a weird one.

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Once you codify 'weirdness' it's no longer weird.

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When you get to the point where you feel obliged to state "Keep {some place} weird", you've already lost the battle.

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.

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I don't know if you've been to Austin recently (last 25 years or so), but it's noticeably non-weird versus the '70s and '80s. The Cathedral of Junk really seems more twee than weird now, and Leslie Cochran died a few years ago. The old "weird" haunts seem less so when staffed by bored-looking UT undergrads wearing pre-distressed t-shirts with the attraction's name on the front (buy yours today for only $10).

Meanwhile, approximately 50 bazillion people have moved in from "furn parts" like India and Colorado. And they're all parked in front of my sister's house, blocking the driveway, and she's pissed.

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whatevs

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You can already sense the douchery growing among the people moving in for their stab at authenticity living amongst the working class in Portland. Munjoy Hill is already on its way to be a waterside Agassiz.

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Any place that gets a rep for being fun and funky affordable and relatively safe is ripe for the picking. Very hard to walk that tightrope between being cool and laid-back and then getting a land rush.

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Oh yes. Calling themselves a Brewery Capital of the USA, and yet my friend that tried to pretend it could hold a candle to either Portland could not fill a growler with less than a 2 mile drive.

What is harshing Portland OR's weird: that very same land rush. Nobody knows how it is all happening, but the condo my brother and I bought has nearly doubled in value in 3 years. Incredibly scary for those who do not already own.

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Portland, Maine reminds me of San Francisco... filled with overpriced shops and restaurants and tons of 20's somethings stoned out of their mind wandering the streets during the week when most people are working. Prices were so expensive for lunch I thought I was in the Back Bay!

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It left me mulling several questions.

--How on earth do you legislate "weird?" It's a cute, understandable feeling but the BRA can't control the levels of funk in any given neighborhood. The one thing that didn't come up was artist housing--for a neighborhood that has had its fair share of artists and musicians, why has there been so little artist housing created?
--How can you advocate for greater affordability while simultaneously demanding small-scale three-decker type housing, more open space, and limited zoning changes? It's magical thinking that often seems to go completely unchallenged.
--How does a group of young people with a declared, vested interest in the community decide to attend an event like this (albeit twenty minutes late) just so they can "decline to participate" in what was a 100% open, accessible conversation and spend the whole evening lurking around the room looking unhappy and accomplishing nothing? "Tent city" cookouts and protests are fine and dandy but if you literally can't find a way to engage in public conversation, to talk and listen as well as shout, then you're just wasting your time.

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If I put some Social Justice under my pillow, it will turn into a 1000 dollar studio.

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Are people who are paying anywhere near and above $3,000/month for rent able to save money for retirement? I can see this as being a very big problem down the line.

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in the sense that these folks want to be thought of as "weird" in the similar way that the south end lost its funkiness, but still wants to be thought of as funky

hip? sure, if you want.
funky? not so much?

...can we call JP East Brookline?

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Can't even think of an area in Boston that's "funky" anymore. You want funky - go to Somerville. Love all the little events they have over there - sad parades, dogs jumping in water, honking horns etc. etc. Gotta give them credit - great branding. The other day we were looking for something to do and we searched on Somerville to see what whacky stuff they had going on over there this week - and I mean that in a good way.

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Maybe Pondside, but if you think all of JP looks like that, you're missing a pretty big piece of it. The Washington St corridor in particular is still very gritty, lots of industrial and automotive businesses, very diverse, and lacking any kind of basic centre and services--grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, etc. Despite that, the housing prices have gone through the roof and there are several major developments in the works. It's hardly Brookline-esque.

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So gritty, so diverse

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Did you go to the meeting? Read the stats? A third of the area under discussion is Spanish-speaking. Something like 70% rent rather than own. Incomes are all over the place but there's a significant number of people along this corridor who earn in the $20-30k range as well as the $750k loft condo types. And if you've ever walked down Washington St from Egleston to Forest Hills you'll note that the majority of the streetscape is still taken up with auto body shops, towing companies, car wash, empty restaurants, parking lots, etc. Or sorry--do hipsters only see or acknowledge other hipsters? Do you not ever venture more than thirty feet from
centre st?

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Or sorry--do hipsters only see or acknowledge other hipsters? Do you not ever venture more than thirty feet from centre st?

Sally, it's pretty clear that "JPHipster" chose his name ironically (and he's clearly smart enough to have been amused by the 'meta'-ness of that). His posts are generally reasonable - somewhat conservative (well, conservative for this city), but not reactionary. He's fairly pro-policing. He definitely likes to poke at JP's trustafarian/cyclist/organic-food-eater contingent (ie his choice of handle). He occasionally 'overstates' facts in service to the point he's making - which means he's a typical UHub poster. He's part of the "let's poke Swirly cause it's fun to watch her steam" contingent.

He's not been around UHub all that long and he comments a bunch for a few weeks and then is silent for awhile. I can't recall if he's ever mentioned more details of his background but my guess is that he's a middle aged professional who owns a house in JP, and has a real job that keeps him from web surfing for large chunks of time.

So definitely not a hipster.

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You are much more observant than I am! Still, hipster or faux hipster, there's still plenty of diversity and plenty of grit. One of the topics raised last night was the disconnect between the Pondside/Centre St side of JP and the Washington St/Egleston/Franklin Park side.

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The Franklin Park side has been gentrifying rapidly in the last decade. Washington Street is surrounded now. It is the disconnect keeping JP from being bourgeois from pond to park. No policy could keep it from changing. The only choice is how.

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I joke that JP is the Cambridge on our side of the River.

And I call Cambridge, France. To my boss's face who lives there.

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Imagine the jokes you could tell if you knew how to be funny.

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thanks, toots!

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in the JP News. "Keep JP weird" was NOT something everyone was saying--it was a closing comment by one table report out that folks thought was funny. There were plenty of other much more common themes that came up at most tables: the need for a greater mix of uses, the idea of focusing density near the transit stations and preserving the character of the 2- and 3-family neighborhoods, the need for a variety of housing choices, including a range of affordabilities, improving the walkability of Wasshington street, the importance of preserving some industrial spaces and creating opportunities for small businesses, and so forth. Just because the reporter wants to stereotype JP/Roxbury residents doesn't mean you should take the bait.

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Are there tar pits where the sidewalks supposed to be? Be there dragons?

Last time I checked you put one foot in front of the other and things become very walkable.

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Cars ignore pedestrian crossings. My friend just moved to JP and commented on how terrible the drivers are when it comes to this. I see cars go through red lights on a daily basis. The area needs better crossings, more enforcement, more street level retail, more density. The list goes on. Neighborhood walkability isn't a new or strange concept.

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On the other side of JP, pedestrians completely ignore crossings and jump out from between cars and larger vehicles anywhere along the street. And by jump out I mean they pop out with no warning - aka no sense of self preservation. Centre St is already congested and slow, so I guess it is safer for peds there (except when it's not and the motorcycles drag race from Mozart to Creighton).

But I agree - Washington St is walkable in that you can walk its length, but it's more to pass through rather than as a destination. Which is too bad.

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I don't know why--people treat Centre like its a pedestrian walkway. Twice in the past week I've had guys literally walk in front of me--into oncoming traffic--without so much as a glance and then do this kind of stoner "hey whatevs, my bad" shrug when I squeal to a stop.

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You're smart enough to know what "walkable" means. It is not a comfortable, safe, or attractive place to walk, especially after dark when it's a swath of poorly lit, closed businesses like the ones I detailed above. There are a few scattered clusters of storefronts and lively areas but mostly it's a long, bleak, heavily trafficked stretch of nothing.

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What's the bleakest stretch on Washington? Maybe by Stan Hatoffs at 3440 Washington?

Walkscore.com has it at a 79, very walkable, with excellent transit (77) and very bikeable (88). Did Doyle's pay them a kickback?

Or maybe up a bit by, uh, 3368 Washington? Somewhat Walkable… within a block of a half-dozen restaurants including one of the best bakeries in Boston.

Is what you really mean not that a person couldn't walk easily there and get to what they need pretty quickly, but that you wouldn't walk there because you're scared of the people you see?

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I've lived here car-free for more than a decade. And no, I'm not scared of the people I see. But if you think that Washington St. from Forest Hills to Egleston is a welcoming, interesting place to walk then you're either crackers or you've never actually been here. I've said it already but I'll say it again slowly so you get it: there are very few amenities here that, say, a moderately active senior citizen could walk to within ten minutes--no grocery store, no pharmacy until you get past Egleston, no post office, no bank. The businesses that are here--yeah, thanks, I know about the bakery--are pretty spread out and there's a lot of empty lots and car-oriented stuff. I have no idea what half a dozen restaurants you're talking about except for a couple of Dominican places--are you counting Ruggiero's? So yeah...thanks for elucidating me with the er...Walkscore info.

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When you say "walkable," you mean a "welcoming, interesting, comfortable, safe, and attractive place to walk."

What is more commonly meant by "walkable" is things like sidewalks being present, streets and paths connecting through, homes being close to businesses, public transport, restaurants, shops, schools, parks, etc. so that people can easily accomplish their daily business walking or bicycling, without driving a lot. Walk Score, for example, rates walkability of addresses solely based on walking distance to amenities.

By your definition, Washington Street is not very walkable for you now. You indicate you do not feel welcome, interested, comfortable, or safe there.

Terms more commonly used by others to indicate what you seem to mean here are sketchy, run-down, or marginal.

Gentrification should fix that for you. It will fill in the gaps, replacing closed businesses and empty lots with shiny new condos. It will make the people who you feel unsafe around go away (perhaps making them feel less "welcome, interested, comfortable…"). The type of restaurant you would never consider entering will be replaced with restaurants catering more to your race and class. It will certainly put more bank branches on Washington Street (though not a post office).

By the more common definition, Washington Street is already very walkable, because of its pedestrian ease of access to a range of amenities and services. One hopes that gentrification - which I expect will change Washington Street greatly over the next twenty years - will not reduce that.

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When selecting a place for a car-free senior to live, I discovered that Walk Score really needs to be verified by walking around the area and seeing what is really there.

Here's an example of why: https://www.walkscore.com/score/boston-wharf-rd-boston-ma-02210

For instance, many places listed as "grocery" are convenience stores. In Boston, some are HQs and offices or distribution centers, not actual stores! "American Soviet Med Market Journal" pops up as the "closest grocery store" to Boston Wharf Road. Or they are as limited as kiosks.

This has an impact on the "mix" of businesses that are rated - and it isn't limited to Boston but kind of a bug in the system. It has to do with the way that their computers handle the data and coding of business information. The place we selected is very walkable, but it still lists the closest "grocery" store as a minimart and the medical weed dispensary next to it as a "pharmacy".

In other words, just because WalkScore is high, doesn't mean that the services around are actually what WalkScore thinks that they are.

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Again...have you ever been here? Did you read my posts or are you just trolling for somewhere to write a kooky faux-wail about gentrification (while enjoying one of those excellent $4 croissants at Canto)? Why you seem to think that having a CVS, an ATM or a decent grocery store to walk to, let alone a bike lane or decent pedestrian infrastructure should be the exclusive provenance of rich people is frankly beyond me.

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Sally, if you only moved here this century, I've been here a bit longer than you. I remember the old orange line, when darkness and steel really did impair the walkability of Washington Street.

I was on Washington this morning, thinking how much nicer it is than it used to be. I think it will be great when they finish the six story building by the station, and that size development starts moving up the street, bringing its needs with it.

Yeah, I read your posts, I just found them obtuse and self-centered. You don't seem to be able to understand that necessary amenities would indeed be different for other people than for your putative little old lady. For me, a barbershop, a bodega, a bar, and a good place for rice and beans are sufficient to make a neighborhood walkable. I go to a drugstore less than once a month, and haven't been inside a bank in years. Those things are pretty irrelevant to me and to a lot of people. The nearest supermarket to my home is 3/4 of a mile away, which is easily walkable for me.

Your needs are not the same as everyone else's. Washington Street will inevitably change to suit people like you better, but other people live around you too, most for longer than you, whose needs are being met by what's there now. Nobody owes you a bourgeois neighborhood to your liking everywhere you go and right now, Sally.

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You're saying that YOUR needs are met by xyz so no need for any changes--literally I, I, I, me, me, me--but I'M the one who's being obtuse and self-centered? Um...yeah, ok. Have a nice day--enjoy your stroll between bar and bodega and count yourself lucky that you don't need to visit a pharmacy more than once a month. Oh, and enjoy all of those imaginary restaurants too.

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