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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Letters to the Editor: Dorms Dorms Dorms

The members of the Columbia Savin Hill Civic Association (CSHCA) seem to be quite misinformed and reactionary (“Dorm Project: Community Group responds,” 11/14/02). Their cries and whines against the proposed dorms on Columbia Point stink of nothing more than NIMBYism. These residents enjoy a pseudo-suburban existence minutes from a Downtown with vast cultural amenities and hundreds of thousands of jobs. They enjoy relatively plentiful parking, due to vigilant enforcement of the resident parking restrictions, freedom from university traffic, as a result of the design of the Point’s roadways, and easy access to the Red Line at both Savin Hill and JFK/UMass.

Few neighborhoods in the city are quieter and more livable. Next to this leafy enclave sits a failed urban renewal wasteland of bricks, empty space and unnecessarily wide highways. Instead of uniting with the university and the Harbor Point community to transform this architectural error into a real urban neighborhood, these short-sighted NIMBYs fight any effort to change the status quo.

Complaints about increased traffic have no merit. Most students at UMass Boston take public transit and those living in dorms will walk to class. Complaints about views and open space are also trivial. How many residents of Savin Hill brave the 12 lanes of Morrissey Boulevard to stroll along the “Harborwalk?” How many of those who live along Columbia Road do so? I worked at the Boston Globe for a short time and my walk from the station along Morrissey was the most dreaded part of my workday.

Besides, open space is not in jeopardy. There is plenty of open land on Columbia Point. From weed-filled vacant lots to unused grassy knolls and fields, we have it all. What the area needs is life, action, warm bodies. Dorms will bring this life, as would a redesign of the area’s roadways. The residents of Savin Hill should be pushing for better integration of the area. Instead, they feebly attempt to maintain their exclusive hold on some of the most underdeveloped land in the Boston area.

The dorms should be built. The new condominium complex on Mount Vernon Street should rise as well. The roadways surrounding the university should be transformed into narrower two-way streets and connected to surrounding roadways. Parallel parking along these roadways would further humanize the Point.

Mount Vernon Street should become the University’s main entrance, hosting small shops, apartments, and other essential community amenities. The street is terribly in need of a makeover. New trees, wider sidewalks, a narrower roadway, more crosswalks, parallel parking and a new extension onto the UMass campus would transform the street into the community axis it was designed to be. The Harbor Point community would welcome a walkable connection to both the university and the T-station. The persistently vacant lot adjacent to the JFK/UMass station would make an excellent location for new graduate apartments. The site is located next to a supermarket, with easy access to both the Red Line and the UMass shuttle bus. Unfortunately this lot is zoned for office development, something the area does not need more of. Suburban style office parks already litter the landscape between the station and the school.

Morrissey Boulevard is excessively wide and dangerous. The Boulevard is under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan District Commission and is categorized as a parkway (“A park with a road in it”). Instead of being a small, unobtrusive, well-landscaped gateway to the sea, Morrissey is a 10 to 12 lane expressway carrying traffic that is bypassing bottlenecks on the Southeast Expressway. There is room for wide sidewalks, bus lanes, bike paths, landscaping, benches and trees, but instead Morrissey Boulevard is devoted entirely to suburban commuters.

With all of the urban design flaws on Columbia Point, why would the CSHCA waste it’s energy fighting something that may actually have a positive influence on the area? I beg the members of the community to get beyond their fear of change and see the big picture. See a healthy, vibrant, connected community stretching from Harbor Point and UMass Boston to Savin Hill and JFK/UMass Station. Only when all of organizations and entities work together will this new community rise.

Joshuah Mello

UMass Boston 2002

Political Science