Letter of Opposition to BRA Urban Renewal Plan Extension

Below you will find a copy of a letter recently submitted by the South End Historical Society to Brian Golden of the Boston Redevelopment Authority and signed by SEHS General Counsel Harvey Wolkoff and the full SEHS Board of Directors.

We highly encourage all interested SEHS members, South End Residents, and South End Neighborhood Associations draft and submit their own letters to the BRA, City Council, and Mayor’s office regarding the extension of the Urban Renewal Plan Area in the South End. Whether you are for or against the measure, it is important that the South End makes its voice heard during this process.

The letter was copied to Mayor Marty Walsh, Governor Charlie Baker, State Rep. Byron Rushing, State Rep. Sonia Chang-Diaz, State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, City Councilor Tito Jackson, City Councilor-at-Large Michelle Wu, City Councilor-at-Large Ayanna Pressley, City Councilor-at-Large Steve Murphy, City Councilor-at-Large Michael Flaherty, and District Councilor Bill Linehan.

Update: We have created a blog post offering some useful background information on the BRA’s Urban Renewal Plan Extension here.






Brian Golden
Boston Redevelopment Authority
One City Hall Plaza, Ninth Floor
Boston, MA 02201
Re: Extension of Urban Renewal Plan Areas

Dear Mr. Golden:

I write as General Counsel to the South End Historical Society (“SEHS”). This is written to inform you that at its last meeting on July 14, 2015, the SEHS Board voted unanimously to oppose the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s (“BRA”) proposal that its authority under M.G.L. c. 121B be extended, or that one of the “project areas” include the South End. It is the Board’s view that such legislative change is both unnecessary and potentially harmful to the South End neighborhood.

As you know, the South End is a neighborhood that has been widely recognized as one of historical significance. The South End houses perhaps the largest area of restored Victorian-era row houses in the country. The South End’s residents have worked closely—indeed, in partnership—with the City of Boston in restoring the South End, its public gardens, and its streetscapes. At the same time, the South End provides as much or more affordable housing than any surrounding area, and is well-known for its racial, ethnic and socio-economic diversity. The South End is also blessed to have a whole array of neighborhood organizations that are closely involved with the welfare of both the South End’s architecture and its residents.

It is safe to say that the conditions in the South End that were existent at the time of the original legislation establishing the Urban Renewal project have changed measurably, and all for the better. The requirements in the “Criterial for Plan Approval,” published recently by The Department of Housing and Community Development (the “DHCD”), simply do not apply to the South End at this time. As but one example, the South End is assuredly not a “decadent, substandard or blighted open area,” as set forth in one of the DHCD criteria. These criteria simply do not fit.

The South End Historical Society looks forward to working with the City of Boston in the Imagine Boston 2030 planning process. But, the Society is firmly in opposition to the Urban Renewal Authority of the BRA as it pertains to the South End. It is our collective position that the BRA’s Urban Renewal Authority should neither be extended, nor should it include the South End.

Very truly yours,

Harvey J. Wolkoff
General Counsel to the South End Historical Society