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letters | South End NIMBYism or smart planning?

Washington Street partnerships, affordability, and charm overlooked

THE JUNE 18 Op-Ed by Dante Ramos, “Entitled dogs and gentrification in the South End,” was slanted, misrepresenting the South End’s full and diverse character that was, has been, and continues to be its charm.

Over the last 20 years, more than seven acres of urban renewal parcels on Washington Street were rebuilt from the demolition of vacant buildings of the late 1970s. Mayor Thomas Menino’s unwavering support and leadership was vital in its redevelopment. Neighborhood associations, historical organizations, elected officials, residents, non-profits, businesses and the development community all worked tirelessly toward thoughtful redevelopment of Washington Street.

In 1995, the community worked with the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), and with other city agencies on a two-and-a-half-year planning process called, “A New Washington Street; Boston’s Main Street for the New Century.” After the planning was completed, new zoning was put in place and mixed-use development and investment moved forward, $1 billion of it since 1997.

Washington Street, from the Mass. Pike to Melnea Cass Boulevard, was chosen as one of the Main Street programs for the City of Boston. The majority of rehabilitated and new housing units were for residents with low and moderate incomes, and, since 1997, 82 new businesses have opened and over $500,000 was invested by the city for new storefronts and signage to existing and new businesses along the street.

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We as South Enders embrace affordable options in housing: Pine Street Inn, Project Place’s SROs, 1701 Washington Street, Cathedral Housing development, Franklin Square House, Mandela, Grant Manor, Roxbury Corners, Parmelee Court, Rollins Square, Langham Court, Nuestra’s SROs, Paul Sullivan Trust House, Villa Victoria, etc. Many longstanding businesses continue to support the diversity of the area: Don Quijote Market, Morse Fish Company, Olympia Flower Store, City Nails, Foodies Urban Market, Andy’s Cleaners, Mike City Diner, Harry O’s Pizza, Empire Loan, JJ Foley’s, William Soo Hoo Law, Richard Soo Hoo Insurance, Celebrity Barbers, Fenny’s Salon, and Suffolk Jewelers.

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All these developments and retailers are part of the fabric of the area and they were not displaced with the “new” Washington Street. Washington Street was chosen as one of the best streets by American Planning Association (APA), and National Trust for Historic Preservation selected Washington Gateway Main Street as one of the best Main Streets in the country. I, with my family, have lived just off Washington Street for 30 years. Today, I am very proud of the redevelopment and continued diversity in the neighborhood, dogs and cats included.

Randi G. Lathrop

Boston

The writer is a past president of Washington Gateway Main Street and a former deputy director of community planning for the Boston Redevelopment Authority