Tag: JFK/UMass Station

Dorchester Bay City Comment Letter

Dorchester Bay City Comment Letter

December 10, 2020
Director Brian Golden
Boston Planning and Development Agency
Attn via email: Aisling Kerr

Secretary Kathleen A. Theoharides
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Attn via email: Erin Flaherty

Re: Dorchester Bay City (EEA# 16277)

Dear Secretary Theoharides and Director Golden:

Dorchester Bay City has the potential to transform a significant site from a largely vacant expanse of asphalt into a vibrant place that draws people from across Boston and the region. Because the ground lease for the property will provide funding for UMass Boston, the site also carries with it an opportunity to strengthen the City’s most important public university.

WalkBoston has reviewed the ENF and PNF with the knowledge that there is a great deal more planning and design to come. We hope that our comments and questions will help to ensure that the scope for the EIR and PIR will help to make the project truly walkable for all.

We also hope that our comments will help to ensure that the proponents, other nearby development teams, and City and State public agencies come together to design and execute the on and off-site infrastructure needed to bring the site’s promise to fruition. The fact that the City’s CAC has been charged with thinking about the benefits, impacts and public infrastructure needs of a collection of projects is a hopeful sign that this bigger picture planning and investment will occur.

Our comments are focused on four key questions:

  1. How will Dorchester Bay City (DBC) achieve the walking connections to the Red Line needed to achieve the mode split envisioned – with relatively low levels of vehicle use and high levels of walking and transit use?
  2. How can DBC be more robustly connected to its immediate and more distant Dorchester neighbors?
  3. What role and responsibility should DBC take in resolving the significant transportation needs that the project’s success is contingent on?
  4. How can some of the site’s more detailed designs ensure that people walking are comfortable, safe and well served by the project itself.

JFK/UMass Station Walking Connections 

The documents describe the poor and unsafe walking connection between the site and the Red Line Station, but level of intervention described to improve the connection is not commensurate with mode share projection and the need of DBC’s occupants. The walking time estimates (shown with concentric circles) do not reflect the actual routes or the psychological barriers posed by the very busy roads and intersections that must be navigated.  Notwithstanding the improvements proposed for Mt. Vernon Street, WalkBoston remains concerned that the quality of the walking environment between the site and the MBTA station will not be attractive enough to generate the substantial transit and pedestrian mode splits that are projected (and which are needed to meet the City’s and State’s GHG targets as well as to prevent ever worsening congestion).

  • We urge the proponent (along with DCR and other public agencies) to think very creatively about this issue and to develop design interventions for the Mt. Vernon Street/Morrissey Boulevard at-grade and underpass intersections that are transformative.
  • We urge DBC to also look at possible walking connections via K Circle and Columbia Road which may be a shorter and more direct walk for some DBC users. The plans being developed for Day Boulevard Extension and for access to the Boston Teacher’s Union Building (5th Street on Figure 1-32 in the PNF) might serve as a starting point for that investigation.
  • As the project plans move ahead, the proponent should also provide a detailed marketing and program plan that will help to achieve the mode splits that have been shown in the ENF and PNF, including a reduction in the number of parking spaces proposed.

Neighborhood Connections

DBC should be connected to its neighbors and to Dorchester. WalkBoston is concerned that DBC will create an island of shiny buildings not connected to their neighbors or the rest of the City.

  • Harbor Point Walking Connection – The grading plans that are proposed to achieve the needed resiliency to ocean level rise will create a grade separation between Harbor Point and DBC. We request that the proponent provide more design details to describe how the physical and neighborly connection will be made between the sites.
  • UMass Walking Connection – UMass is only a five -minute walk from many parts of the DBC site. We ask that the project design team explore ways in which this connection can be made attractive and explicitly help to build a connection between the two.
  • Dorchester, Moakley Park, Carson Beach Connections –We understand that resolution of the design for Morrissey Boulevard and K Circle lies in the hands of state agencies and will be enormously important to these connection issues. But we urge the proponent to delve deeply into design ideas that could help make the walking connections robust. For example:
    • What wonderful walking path and Day Boulevard crossing could connect DBC to Moakley Park?
    • Are there improvements to walking connections via K Circle and Columbia Road that would also continue under the Southeast Expressway to make the walk to Dorchester Ave and beyond significantly more pleasant and fully accessible?

Role and responsibility of DBC in resolving the significant transportation projects

There are very big off site issues that need to be addressed to make this project really work. The proponent acknowledges that the infrastructure needs to match climate resiliency and the scale of the development that is coming on this site and nearby. The projects include JFK/UMass station and service; Morrissey Boulevard, K Circle and Day Boulevard that are re-built as a climate-resilient gateways that serve all modes.

We ask that DBC describe the level of commitment that they will provide to get these projects to successful implementation that goes beyond promises to collaborate and includes firmer commitments in terms of timing, leadership in bringing all parties to the table and funding.

Design Details

We understand that the PNF and ENF show very early stages of design, and ask that the following walking and walkability questions be addressed in greater detail in the DEIR and DPIR.

  • Provide separated walking and biking routes.
  • De-emphasize vehicles throughout the project site – slow them down, make them feel like intruders who have been granted access on good behavior.
  • Provide active places for playing, basketball etc. not just landscaping as a forecourt to buildings. DBC should achieve the lived-in, well-used feel of a neighborhood that feels like a place for everyone.
  • Re-examine the proximity of Building A to Carson Beach, which is public open space and should not feel privatized in any way.
  • Look in a very fine grained way at garage entries and exits, service and loading areas etc. to ensure that they are safe and gracious for people walking.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this significant and important development which will occupy on of Boston’s most wonderful sites.

We look forward to working with the DBC Team, the community and City and State agencies to help ensure that a wonderful project is built.


Stacey Beuttell                                                                                  Wendy Landman
Executive Director                                                                           Senior Policy Advisor