It's never too late to say you're sorry. Just ask Jim Campano.
Campano was among the nearly 50 people on hand at the West End Museum last week for the opening of an exhibition on the history of urban renewal. During the reception, Boston Redevelopment Authority director Brian Golden issued a formal apology on behalf of his agency for the razing of the West End that took place nearly six decades ago.
It was, according to Campano, a historic moment. Campano's family was forced out of the West End when he was a teenager. They fled to Somerville, where he still lives today. Over the years, many Boston politicians have publicly agreed with the now-widespread belief that the West End demolition represents a black mark on Boston's history. However, Campano said the agency that was most responsible never officially apologized – until now.
"Although the destruction happened decades ago, the scars still remain," Golden said in his prepared speech on Thursday. "We haven't forgotten. We have learned."
The apology comes at a time when BRA officials are trying to build support for a 10-year extension of the agency's urban renewal powers. Golden, in his speech, referenced that fact, and said the BRA hasn't been in the business of clearing neighborhoods for a long time. The BRA wants to use these tools, he said, in a much more nuanced manner now.
To Campano, at least, Golden's apology came across as genuine.
"This is the first time anybody from the BRA has formally apologized," said Campano, the publisher of the West Ender newsletter. "[Golden] said all the right things. … To me, it was kind of uplifting for somebody at the BRA to say, 'We did this, and we're sorry.'"