With the inauguration of Boston Mayor Michelle Wu ’07 on Tuesday, Allston residents said they are optimistic her plans to reconfigure urban development and city planning in Boston will positively benefit the neighborhood as it handles an influx of Harvard development projects.
Wu, the first woman and person of color elected to the mayorship in Boston, assumed office on Tuesday.
According to her campaign website, Wu plans to “abolish” the Boston Planning and Development Agency, a body she charges with having exacerbated Boston’s “structural inequality” and with displacing residents of color in recent decades. Her administration also plans to prioritize more environmentally-conscious development, according to her campaign’s website.
Legally, the City of Boston cannot dissolve the BPDA without state approval. Wu plans to cut the organization’s operating budget and strip its authority over zoning and development in order to functionally “dismantle” the organization, per the campaign.
Elizabeth A. “Liz” Breadon, a city councilor for Allston-Brighton, wrote in an email that she was “delighted” by Wu’s historic election.
Breadon wrote she anticipates Wu will be attentive to the interests of residents of the neighborhood. She added she anticipates Wu will support a more “integrated” development approach by the Harvard-Allston Land Company in lieu of the firm’s past approach of pursuing individual development projects in Allston.
State Representative Michael J. Moran said he hopes Wu will take the time to appoint staff to help her “implement her vision” for city development.
Moran said one reason he supported Wu was because they agree that the government can affect “people’s lives in a positive way.” Like Breadon, he said he hopes for a more cohesive, long-term strategy of urban development.
“I’m hopeful that in projects that are coming forward, that we see greater affordable housing numbers, we see better sustainability and more of a long term planning as opposed to a piecemeal type of planning,” Moran said.
Moran said he hopes to see greener projects and more open spaces in future Allston projects.
Jane McHale, an Allston resident and Wu supporter, said she is in favor of making the BPDA a “separate entity” from City Hall but is hesitant to support “abolishing” the agency.
McHale, who has also been involved in local development review processes, said the BPDA must be a “better facilitator.” She cited recruiting liaisons between residents and developers who can address questions and feedback on city planning as an example.
Harvard’s present affordable housing commitments, according to McHale, are “not enough,” and argued the city should make additional investments to address the housing crisis.
“The government has gotten out of the housing business many years ago, and it sort of leaves it up to cities and developers, and with the cost of building dramatically increasing through Covid, that margin has gotten much more narrow for developers,” she added.
Allstonian Daniel J. Navarro, who did not vote in the mayoral election and does not consider himself a supporter of Wu, said he feels that the “tight-knit” developments Harvard has created in the city “can be exclusionary” to the surrounding population in Allston.
Campbell Forbes, another Allston resident, alleged Harvard development in Allston has also led to a proliferation of rats in the neighborhood. He urged the city to address the issue.
“[The city administration] need to be responsible for exterminating little critters and not just let the little critters wander into the neighborhood,” Forbes added.
University spokesperson Brigid O’Rourke wrote in an emailed statement that Harvard is eager to collaborate with the Wu administration on Harvard initiatives.
“We look forward to working with Mayor-elect Wu, her administration, and the Allston-Brighton Community as the University continues to advance innovative projects and offer exciting and responsive programs and initiatives across the City of Boston,” she wrote.
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