Ask Menino to help Allston/Brighton - Charlesview comment deadline TUESDAY

Dear Neighbors,

In the upcoming weeks, Mayor Menino will make a decision about the Harvard-Charlesview land swap. He can continue allowing Harvard to sit on acres of vacant, blighted, and under-used land for decades into the future. Or, he can ask Harvard to do more to make Allston and Brighton the better neighborhood that Harvard and the Mayor have promised us.

Would you help encourage the Mayor to improve our neighborhood by doing two things?

After dozens of BRA meetings and planning by members of the ABNNF, several key issues have become clear:

  1. What will be happen on Harvard’s Allston and Brighton land and when?
    Many of the issues below can only be solved if Harvard allows activity on its idle property that is beyond the boundaries of its 50-year plan. It seems reasonable to ask Harvard to allow reasonable uses that will strengthen Allston and Brighton for Harvard's benefit and ours. The current degree of uncertainty stifles investment, harms our quality of life, and should no longer be accepted.
  2. The new Charlesview must be built properly and well-maintained
    Charlesview residents have suffered from sub-standard living conditions. Charlesview must be able to afford high-quality construction and ongoing maintenance for many years. Charlesview and the BRA have refused to prove that Charlesview has the money to complete this construction properly and that past maintenance problems will not be repeated.
  3. Allston and Brighton need more homeownership
    Only 2 out of 10 Allston/Brighton residents own their homes. This makes us close to last in all of Massachusetts. The Charlesview proposal for development at the Brighton Mills Shopping Center has fewer than 1 ownership unit for every 10 apartments. Development of more homeownership south of Holton Street would be one solution.
  4. Impacts of increased density
    This project sets dangerous precedents without planning ahead. Our neighborhood has nothing like Charlesview’s proposed 8-story building with 118 bedrooms on a quarter-acre of land. If future development has this density, what will happen to the traffic on Western Ave, Everett Street, and what are today quiet side streets? There has been no planning for these impacts and this project lead to overloading streets that were never intended for this volume of traffic.
  5. Our crowded neighborhood needs more parks
    The Charlesview proposal includes ½ acre of parks for approximately 1,000 residents. This is nowhere near enough for people of all ages to socialize, exercise, and enjoy the outdoors. Compare this to the Allston/Brighton average of 5 acres of parks per 1,000 residents and Boston’s average of 7 acres per 1,000. This proposal also offers little to improve access to the River or make improvements to support the increased usage that it would create.
  6. More retail on Western Ave is needed
    Since Harvard University bought Brighton Mills and other nearby retail locations, our neighborhood has lost the convenience and jobs of more than 100,000 square feet of retail (Kmart, OfficeMax, and many small businesses). The current proposal includes only 13,000 square feet of retail, enough for maybe 3 or 4 small stores. This could be corrected by reconfiguring the Charlesview proposal (more retail on the ground floor along Western Ave instead of Charlesview management offices) and integrating McDonald's into a multi-story building instead of rebuilding a one-story McDonald's-only building surrounded by parking on all 4 sides.
  7. The importance of economic integration
    Charlesview claims that their new housing will be “mixed”, but fewer than 1 in 10 of the proposed apartments are for people with an average income or above. A real mix would have a equal balance of rental and ownership housing for people with all income levels. Virtually every expert in housing policy and sociology (and the common sense of most citizens) agree that economic and racial segregation should be avoided at all costs. A new Charlesview with more workforce and market-rate housing can also provide many options for current Charlesview residents who want to remain close to their current neighbors.
  8. More Family-sized units needed
    To help create a more family-friendly neighborhood, we need more housing big enough for families. The proposed 8-story condo building has ZERO units with 3 or 4 bedrooms.
  9. Units intended for homeownership should require owner-occupancy
    If large institutions (such as Harvard University) are able to buy and then rent the proposed homeownership units, the project will do nothing to help stabilize our community and provide permanent housing for people who want to become long-term residents and neighbors.

For reference, all comment letters from the last round of review (any they were excellent!) for this project are at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/19017839/Charlesview-Comment-Letters-March-2008

Thank you

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