Upham's Corner Online

St. Kevin's Developer Confronted with Angry and Hostile Residents

Posted: May 2, 2012     Nancy J Conrad

POUA Website
Developer Bypasses Community Voice Developer uses St. Mary's as Ploy St. Kevin's Update Meeting

The Archdiocese of Boston’s in-house developer, the Planning Office of Urban Affairs (POUA), held a community update meeting on Tuesday, April 24 at 6 PM at the Cape Verdean Adult Daycare Center on Hancock Street in Upham’s Corner.  From a news perspective this meeting had so little content it is almost not worth reporting about.  Yes, there were a couple modifications but mostly their presentation consisted of a rehash of the past (history lesson on the developer's accomplishments). 

The real story is the emotional and psychological state of the community during the meeting, not what the developer had to say.  Anger, hostility and a warring attitude toward the developer pervaded the interaction over the entire two-hour meeting.  Observing the meeting was like watching the start of a mystery movie of incongruent circumstances that you know are going to lead to a surprising "who-done-it" scenario. 
  • Why is that baby crying all the time?
  • Why are the residents so angry with the developer? 
  • Why is the developer ignoring the residents at the meeting?
  • Why does it feel like there is something really wrong with this picture?
Characteristic of the feelings being expressed is what one resident stated: 
There is a clear level of disrespect for the community.  It appears that they have the bit between their teeth and are determined to ride roughshod over the neighborhood.
In response (to this mystery), Upham's Corner News is in the process of examining the history, the facts, the issues raised, how the developer and residents responded (to each other) and is putting together articles (over time) that lead to a statement of findings to which the community can respond.  Topics to be examined in detail include the following:  housing mix, building height, building location, meeting attendance and the attitude of elected officials regarding St. Kevin's.

The developer (the Archdiocese of Boston) is intent on getting funding and "doing their thing" (subsidized housing) without responding (much) to resident concerns.  While not taking a position about the development (per se), UC News is taking a position about the future of Upham's Corner and asking all of us to examine the St. Kevin's proposed development more closely. 

Response and conversation are important here.
  • What does Upham's Corner need right now to revitalize the community? 
  • Will the construction of 80 units of subsidized housing do much positive for the community?
  • Why would the CITY OF BOSTON (BRA, Mayor, elected officials) have approved this project well before the technical issues were resolved? 
  • Is Upham's Corner being used as a "dumping ground" - a favor to another political faction?  Yes, No, Maybe?
  • Are residents who favor the proposed development making a decision in favor of expediency?
  • Are residents who "oppose" the development just being cantankerous?
Unless a community (person) is truly out of balance, the continued presence of anger and hostility is generally based on something real.  However, the "real" could be an issue that has evolved into something bigger because of the unwillingness of either party to "give in."  Is that what is happening here - a dictatorial, hierarchy telling Upham's Corner what it is going to get?  Or is it a slight rebuff never forgotten that has caused the formation of dissident factions in Upham's Corner?

Please note:  The full investigation and reporting on the St. Kevin's meeting will require time beccause the issues underlying the community's attitude are complex with a lot of history.  UC News will reporting on each issue as investigations complete.  You are encouraged to read the articles carefully and to take appropriate action.

Be willing to stand up and let your voice be heard. 

The meeting lasted a full two hours (actually starting off a few minutes late) with presentations from many of the developer team present: 
  • Lisa Alberghini, Pres POUA
  • David Aiken, project manager for St. Kevin's
  • The Architecture Team (project architects)
  • Landscaper
  • Drainage specialist
  • Judy Beckler
  • Joe San Clemente (traffic engineer)
  • Fr. Jack Ahern
  • Others
The drainage specialist contributed nothing new to the community's understanding.  The landscaper presented the same pictures the developer had presented in 2010.  The project manager said nothing.  All St. Kevin's developer statements were made by Ms. Alberghini who spent the first 15 minutes on the past. 

Joe San Clemente made interesting comments about why there had to be a Davern Ave exit (truck turnaround problem) and the architect showed renderings of Building A which is now set back 30' on the 5th floor.  Finally, the developer has agreed to store the trash inside the building - no smell, no dumpster divers and no racoons.

Throughout the meeting, residents made suggestions which the developer mostly ignored (almost 100%).
  • Under ground parking - no
  • Reduce Building A to 4 stories - no
  • Rebuild Building B - no
  • Add density to the rear of Building C so that the density is not visible but removes some density from Building A - no - maybe
  • Set back from the sidewalks - no
  • Curb cut on Columbia Rd - no
  • Examine the health effects of families on the high traffic Columbia Rd - no
  • Widen Davern Ave - no
  • Route traffic into/out of the site from Columbia Rd - no
Any wonder the residents expressed anger? 

The "attitude" of the developer is "show and tell," also known as "dog and pony."  What Upham's Corner wants, the residents say, is a cordial working relationship where the community works out design issues with the developer.

What the community gets is "Let's show you what WE have come up with" and the developer seems unable to hear suggestions the residents are making.

As one resident stated to Judy Beckler who represented POUA at the January 2012 Westside meeting:  "My problem is that we do not have a relationship with the developer.  Right now it feels like we're getting into a divorce."  Ms. Beckler's response was to "hope" they could be friends.  But on what basis?  For friends' sake? 

To gain the confidence of the community the developer needs to "offer" the community enough to regrow all the confidence and trust that has been lost since Day 1.

Note:  The developer has promised a full copy of the Powerpoint presentation but phone calls into the developer have not been returned.  As of 5/2/12, there is nothing new on their website regarding St. Kevin's.

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