Mayor Wu joins WECA for monthly meeting

Mayor Michelle Wu was the guest speaker for the monthly meeting of the West End Civic Association on Thursday, March 14, at the Amy Lowell Apartments, where she fielded a number of questions from board members and others in the capacity crowd.

Her visit to WECA came in direct response to a request from District 8 City Councilor Durkan, who upon being sworn into office last August, immediately asked the mayor to attend one of the organization’s monthly meetings, said Mayor Wu.

On the topic of Thoreau Path and the $1 million earmarked for its repaving, Mayor Wu made assurances that the budget wouldn’t fall prey to inflation as it would be adjusted along with city’s Capital Budget. But she also acknowledged that more staff would need to be hired internally “to move this forward.”

Councilor Durkan, who sat alongside the mayor, said she believes $1 million is enough money to complete the project. She added that Jascha Franklin-Hodge, the city’s chief of streets, could schedule a time to discuss this matter with WECA leadership within the next month, likely in the last week of March.

Likewise, Mayor Wu said the city would be able to provide an estimate for the project, or at least the timing for an estimate, at this meeting. She also agreed to a request from longtime WECA Board member Louise Thomas that the city adhere decals on the path to instruct users that no bicycles or motorized bikes are permitted there.

In response to concerns raised about the precedent that could be set by an 11-story life science building proposed for 222 Friend St., which would be more than twice the allowable height for its location, Mayor Wu suggested that Murray Miller, the city’s director of the Office of Historic Preservation, could join WECA leadership for a site walk to see “specifically what you’re looking to preserve.”

Councilor Durkan said she would also like to be involved in this conversation. She also suggested that a city architect should be hired in house to help the Boston Landmarks Commission fulfill its requirement of studying each building for its historical significance, since these studies are now typically outsourced by the city at a significant cost.

Moreover, Mayor Wu pledged to fill potholes on Nashua Street in the spring and said she would also take steps to help address the problem of ubiquitous trash in the area.

“All day I have been thinking about things I can’t change, like climate change,” said Mayor Wu. “Trash is something I can fix.”

Sen. Lydia Edwards was also on hand for the meeting, discussing some of her latest achievements with the legislature, including helping to push through a $4.1 billion bond bill that she said would “transform the housing system.”

Meanwhile, Sebastian Belfanti, president of WECA, said “a fully functional” community space at 75 Blossom Court – a property owned by Mass General Hospital which was previously home to the J Pace & Son grocery store – is tentatively scheduled to be handed off to the West End community in September.

(Providing this community space was included in the community benefits and neighborhood mitigation for MGH’s new, state-of-the-art clinical care building now under construction on Cambridge Street.)

Belfanti added that “late negotiations” are now ongoing with a retailer poised to take over the former nail-salon space.

Duane Lucia was also on hand for the meeting to deliver the report for WECA’s Green Committee, which included an update on the Greatest Neighborhood Park.

For WECA’s April monthly meeting, a representative from Beacon Hill Village will be the guest speaker, said Belfanti.

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