Sunday, December 02, 2007

Boston College to Present 10-Year Institutional Master Plan Tuesday Night

Boston College is expected to present details of their 10-year institutional master plan at this Tuesday evening's meeting of the BC Task Force. I consider it likely to be preceded by a press release / briefing.***
BC Task Force Meeting
Tuesday, December 4, 2007, 6:30-8:30 pm
Brighton Marine Health Center, 77 Warren Street, 3rd floor, Brighton MA 02135
Agenda: BC's Institutional Master Plan
For more information, contact: John Fitzgerald, Project Manager, BRA, 617-918-4267,
During 2007, BC officials have been presenting the broad outlines of their more extended IMP (20-50 year), including a prioritized list of what would be built first:

but have not gone into detail about the specific elements of the 10-year IMP. The 10-year IMP is the one that will be filed with the BRA and be the subject of the formal regulatory process.

BC Rolling Out IMP on First Night of Hanukkah. Yes, Tuesday's meeting of the BC Task Force will take place on the first night of Hanukkah, despite concerns raised by at least a few members of the community (including myself). In September, Harvard University showed deference to a Jewish holiday by rescheduling their first night football game, but no such luck here: secular BRA and Jesuit BC have stuck to their Hannukah meeting schedule. Maybe at the meeting we'll find out about the schedule put together by BC and the BRA for future BC Task Force meetings, such as on Christmas Eve, New Year's Day morning, Good Friday, and nightly during Ramadan. (Scheduling conflicts with December 28th, however, would no doubt prevent that date from being used.) So... who's bringing the menorah and dreidels along on Tuesday night?

Will the 10-Year IMP Show Any Modifications From Previous Plans?

Since May 2007, BC officials have given no public indication of what elements of the IMP, if any, have been modified in response to the community's comments. Even the Boston Globe editorial page showed some concern, since they referred to BC's expansion into the former seminary land as being "Too Close for Comfort"!

On Tuesday, it should be immediately clear whether or not BC has responded to concerns raised repeatedly by the community during 2007: student housing, i.e., Brighton Dorms vs. Main Campus; athletic fields, particularly the 2000-seat baseball stadium; Foster Rock housing abutting Orthodox Jewish community on Portina Road; and re-routing St. Thomas More Road.

Brighton Dorms. The most obvious indication of whether or not BC has responded to the community's concerns is to see if the "Brighton Dorms" (on the former St. John's Seminary land) are anywhere to be found on the 10-year IMP. The community has expressed pretty much unanimous opposition to constructing undergraduate dormitories in the former St. John's Seminary land -- as did all candidates for the District 9 City Council seat (including Councilor-elect Mark Ciommo), Councilor-At-Large-elect John Connolly, and many elected officials (including State Representatives Kevin Honan and Michael Moran, who told me of their opposition earlier in the summer). The community has repeatedly suggested building densely on BC's Main Campus instead, in locations such as the MODS site, as well as not tearing down Edmonds Hall.

If the Brighton Dorms appear in the 10-year IMP, there will be little doubt that BC has ignored the community's concerns voiced repeatedly throughout the year. Nonetheless, if I were in Deval Patrick's Suffolk Downs Casino Royale, I would bet that the Brighton Dorms are still part of the IMP that BC will file -- because outside contractors were seen in October boring soil samples where BC wants to put the undergraduate dorms and parking garage. Another indication that BC is not accomodating the neighborhood is a page on their IMP website (updated 11/20/07). If BC's presentation of their IMP on Tuesday shows the Brighton Dorms anywhere, I wouldn't be surprised to see a crowd at least as raucous as the BAIA and BC Task Force meetings in May.

On the other hand, if BC's IMP includes dense housing construction on the MODS site, then this would be an indication that BC has been sensitive to the community's concerns. Such a modification to their IMP would eliminate the need for the Brighton Dorms as well as move more off-campus students into campus housing.

Foster Rock Housing. The IMP is expected to include construction of 70-90 beds of graduate student / seminarian housing at 188-196 Foster Street next to the Foster Rock, a parcel that directly abuts a large Orthodox Jewish community on Portina Road. BC officials met last week with members of that community at Shaloh House, and all indications are that this housing proposal will continue to be part of the IMP, despite the concerns raised by the Orthodox community all year (and at last week's meeting).

Due to their observance of Hannukah, it is unlikely that any members of the Orthodox community will attend Tuesday's meeting, according to one member of the congregation I contacted.

One particularly ill-conceived element of BC's earlier proposal was the plan to tear down three houses (dating from the 1880s) at the corner of the combined parcel -- at 188, 192, and 196 Foster Street. Harvard University, on the other hand, found a straight-forward way to build around existing houses -- thereby preventing their demolition -- when they built the University Place development in the early 1980s in Harvard Square. Can BC show that they now want to help keep families in the neighborhood by keeping and/or renovating these three houses, like they've done on Wade Street? Or will they have ignored community input by leaving the proposed housing the same as it was earlier in the year? The wrecking-ball answer may already be in hand: at recent meetings BC officials have noted that they have upped the size of the facility from 70 beds to 90.

Baseball Stadium. Many members of the community, particularly residents of Lane Park, have expressed strong concerns (e.g., the lights, noise, traffic, etc.) about BC's proposed 2000-seat baseball stadium for the fields at the north end of the Brighton Campus.

While only around 20 home baseball games (many nighttime) are expected each spring, BC wants to use the "multipurpose" field in the baseball stadium's outfield -- as well as another multipurpose field nearby -- with full field lights nightly throughout the year. BC also has proposed to install artificial field turf for the baseball stadium, softball stadium, and multipurpose field, despite concerns the about the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon contamination (stemming from recycled tires in the rubber layer) that could adversely impact the local ecosystem and nearby Chandler Pond.

Inspection of the IMP's proposed lighting, nighttime usage, and type of turf for the athletic fields will be a direct indication of whether or not BC has responded to legitimate concerns raised by the neighborhood.

Re-routing St. Thomas More Road. Rather than have a public street pass in-between BC's Main Campus and their More Hall parcel, BC has proposed to re-route St. Thomas More Road to pass between More Hall and the Evergreen Cemetery.

Additionally, BC wants to move the MBTA B line "BC Station" from its current location back a couple of hundred feet to the middle of Commonwealth Avenue.

When this plan was presented in April (in the absence of MBTA officials, because they had not signed off on it), the entire plan met with great skepticism from the neighborhood. The current intersection would be split up into two different intersections -- with the new one forming a new entrance to the Brighton Campus -- with unclear impacts on the traffic. (The visual traffic model shown at the meeting did not include MBTA trains, even though they would pass through the new intersection both in the current state and in the modified station configuration! Of course the combined intersection works better without the trains!)

In their new IMP, look to the re-configuration of St. Thomas More Drive, the new intersection, and the location of the MBTA station to see if BC has learned anything from the neighborhood's skepticism -- if not outright negative response -- or if they are just barreling ahead on all cylinders.

*** EDIT (12/3/07): BC's student newspaper, The Heights, reports that the master plan "be announced publicly on Wednesday when it will be formally filed with the city."

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