Opinion

opinion | Martin J. Walsh

A new conversation is just beginning

tonia cowan/globe staff

The discussion about bringing the 2024 Olympics to Boston may be over, but the one about redeveloping Widett Circle is just beginning.

For many months, our city engaged in an important conversation about our future. We saw an opportunity — to reach beyond the Games, and imagine what we wanted our city to look like. And we weren’t just thinking about 2024 — we were thinking about Boston in 2030, 2040, and the years ahead.

Any talk about our city’s future has to include Widett Circle. This area is already home to close to 20 businesses and 800 workers who are employed by meat and seafood wholesalers, a cold storage facility, a city tow lot, rail yards, and more. These are all industries vital to keeping our city running and thriving.

Advertisement

The potential for Widett Circle is even more impressive. We could build a new neighborhood here, connecting South Boston and the South End. Given this area’s proximity to the Mass. Ave. connector to I-93 and the MBTA Red Line, it would also open up badly needed new options for transportation.

Get Arguable with Jeff Jacoby in your inbox:
From the Globe's must-read columnist, an extra offering each week of opinion and ideas.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Looking at Widett Circle from that perspective — with new eyes — we see an area that is poised for substantial growth in coming years.

The end of Boston’s Olympic dreams shouldn’t end planning for a new neighborhood south of downtown. With easy transit connections, the area once envisioned for an Olympic stadium still holds enormous potential. By thinking big, the Walsh administration can turn a little-used parcel into a key part of 21st-century Boston.

There may never be an Olympic stadium built in Widett Circle. But there could be new retail and office space. There could be beautiful open space and parks. There could be thousands of affordable housing units — which we need in order to accommodate our city’s rapidly growing population of young professionals, families, and seniors.

This could be a place where all those people — and others — can work, live, play, and thrive. To get there, we need unbridled imagination and ideas from all quarters. That’s why I am calling on developers, architects, neighbors, and all residents across Boston to take an interest in Widett Circle. Moving forward will take strong partnerships. It will take collaboration. It will take many more conversations about which plan is best for the city, and how to make it a reality. But the prospect of going through this dynamic process together is exciting.

The truth is that our city has gained a lot of bold ideas from the Olympic bid process. Millions of dollars were spent on the Olympic plans, and it’s critical that we take advantage of that work to move Boston forward. It shouldn’t be forgotten or ignored.

Advertisement

Last April, the city brought in Sara Myerson to serve as the executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Olympic Planning. She did incredible work, and we are excited that she will continue to review the plans released by Boston 2024. We have a goal of integrating some of these concepts into Imagine Boston 2030 — the first new citywide planning process in 50 years.

And while we are looking at Boston 2024’s ideas, we are asking for even more — from everyone. We truly want the entire city to be involved in designing Imagine Boston 2030 and Boston’s future.

The momentum for growth here is building every day. We need to keep it going — this is no time for us to rest on our laurels. Let’s continue to plan for the future, together. Let’s continue to dream big for Boston.

Martin J. Walsh is the mayor of Boston.