Tag: Choice neighborhood

Comment letter: Supporting the Whittier Choice Neighborhoods Initiative

Comment letter: Supporting the Whittier Choice Neighborhoods Initiative

July 24, 2014

Wenda Tai, Real Estate Department
Boston Housing Authority
52 Chauncy St., 8th floor
Boston, MA 02111

Dear Ms. Tai: WalkBoston strongly supports the Implementation Phase of the Whittier Choice Neighborhoods Initiative.

The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative comes at a very opportune time. It presents a unique chance to build upon the many transportation and development projects that have begun in Roxbury– the planning area for the Whittier Choice Neighborhood– over the past five years. The City of Boston’s commitment to encouraging walking, bicycling and transit via the Complete Streets Policy adopted two years ago, continues to contribute to the revitalization of Dudley Square and illustrates the benefits of including easy pedestrian access in the Whittier Choice Neighborhood Initiative.

In the coming year, the Complete Streets principles will be applied to the re-design of Melnea Cass, an arterial boulevard in the northern section of the project area. The community has already engaged in a three year planning process of re-design, and implementation funds are available. Alongside re-building Whittier Street Housing, the Initiative can use Complete Streets strategies to achieve the Initiative’s goal of integrating the residents of Whittier Street Housing and Madison Park Village into the overall Roxbury community. Such strategies include slowing traffic on Melnea Cass Boulevard and making it safer and easier for pedestrians to cross Melnea Cass Boulevard, Malcolm X Boulevard and Tremont Street.

After working with many community groups and local residents, WalkBoston agrees with and endorses the recommendations of residents about improving walking connections linking Madison Park Village, Whittier Street Housing and nearby destinations, notably Dudley Square and parks and fitness facilities. In several community meetings that WalkBoston attended, we noted that residents did not indicate high levels of usage or identification with nearby Ruggles Station and the adjoining Southwest Corridor Park– a five mile linear park that includes walking, jogging and bicycle paths as well as tennis and basketball courts, and playgrounds. WalkBoston firmly recommends that a key portion of the Initiative should enable easy access to this major recreational resource.

Residents did express strong interest in safe and direct walking routes to Dudley Square, the commercial and historical heart of Roxbury. To create the lively, human scale community that residents envision, safe and convenient walking connections need to be made between housing and nearby destinations.

In addition to Dudley Station, which provides bus service throughout the City, the Square has restaurants, shops and social services. Dudley Square is also experiencing a renaissance asĀ  historical buildings that defined the Square, the Ferdinand, Waterman and Curtis buildings, are being or have been renovated and new office uses like the Boston School Department will relocate there.

WalkBoston looks forward to working with the community on the following walking projects during the Implementation Phase.

1. Provide better street- and sidewalk-level visibility for many of the area’s recreational facilities that are not highly identifiable because of the superblock on Malcolm X between Shawmut and Columbus/Tremont. The Campus High Urban Renewal parcel is a barrier not only for abutters, but other residents of Lower Roxbury.

2. Improve walking connections for residents of Whittier Housing and Madison Park to reach Dudley Square. Residents say the most highly used walking route is along Ruggles Street that runs directly from the housing developments to Dudley. Of particular concern is the intersection of Ruggles/Shawmut where drivers along one-way Shawmut fail to yield to walkers.

3. Improve walking connections between housing and the Post Office at the Shawmut Avenue/Malcolm X Intersection and the Social Security Office on Malcolm X Blvd near Dudley Street.

4. Create a more direct and visibly obvious route from Madison Park and Whittier to the track facilities at Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center. The Athletic Center is a major recreational resource for this neighborhood. Residents can easily access these facilities without crossing any major roadways, but its location is not highly visible.

5. Assess the potential of the proposed Fitness Loop to meet resident needs/interest for a formalized walking route. The Loop would circle the Whittier/Madison Park neighborhood, running along Malcolm X Blvd, Tremont Street, Melnea Cass Blvd and Washington Street. While the Loop layout has an aesthetic appeal, pedestrians do not generally seek out walkways along heavily traveled roadways and transportation corridors. Instead they prefer walking routes that incorporate multiple destinations, such as shops and restaurants. Additionally, cars tend to travel much more slowly along such routes than along the arterial roadways that make up much of the proposed fitness route.

In summary, WalkBoston looks to the Implementation Plan to address the creation of improved pedestrian access through short blocks, safe street crossings, and improved connections to the many extant recreational facilities in the area.

Sincerely,

Dorothea Hass
Senior Project Manger

cc: Patrick Hoey, Boston Transportation Department
Friends of Melnea Cass Boulevard