The long-awaited Tremont Crossing megaproject got a celebrity boost Thursday evening when Michael Bivins, a member of the famous Roxbury boy group New Edition, turned up at a City Hall board meeting to show his support.
Bivins picked a packed, busy, and contentious time to visit the Boston Planning and Development Agency on the ninth floor of City Hall. Protesters were chanting about a development plan in Jamaica Plain/Roxbury. And controversy erupted when an officer began videotaping the protesters. Bivins, it seems, didn’t stick around for his moment to speak.
“He was going to speak on behalf, as I understand it, but the overwhelming crowd forced many to wait outside, and some folks, including him, eventually left,’’ said Carole Brennan, who is in charge of public relations for Tremont Crossing.
City officials said 34 people spoke in favor of the project, and 14 opposed. Bivins could not be reached for comment.
The planning agency’s board approved the project, which would put 718 apartments, a large retail center, and a new Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists at the corner of Tremont and Whittier streets.
The project, a decade in the works, is expected to cost more than $500 million and include 1.2 million square feet. When built, it would be the largest project to launch in Roxbury. Opponents have said the project is too massive, includes little affordable living spaces, and threatens to further gentrify the neighborhood.
Bivins, who grew up in Roxbury, has a personal connection to the neighborhood. In the fall of 2016, Mayor Martin J. Walsh dedicated the Michael L. Bivins Court at Ramsay Park, on Washington Street in the singer’s honor.
Bivins — a founding member of New Edition and one third of Bell Biv Devoe — joined Walsh at the event. The court named in his honor was the site of the annual Michael Bivins Basketball Tourney hosted by the singer.
Bivins is an entrepreneur, mentor to other performers, and has been involved in the work of My Brother’s Keeper Boston, which aims to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by young men of color.