Upham's Corner Online

Wait a Minute!  What about Upham's Corner?

Posted: February 21, 2012     Nancy J Conrad

The BRA's kickoff event at the Strand Theatre was as celebratory as it deserved to be.  The City of Boston has worked hard to create the opportunity for the funding grants - from its grass roots citizenry up the ranks through CDC's and NDC's, to City Hall, the State House and the Feds above them.

Over to the side of the stage, barely visible to the gathered crowd, was the tiny community of Upham's Corner - 0.33 square miles - a neighborhood of Dorchester.  This community has been waiting for the official announcement of a long-promised planning initiative.

We learned that it had been rolled into the Fairmount planning initiative.  We "know" that we are but a "stop" in the Fairmount planning process.  But not hearing one word spoken about Upham's Corner at the kickoff seemed a bit of a rebutal.

Troubling also was a conversation with Mayor Menino at the close of the event.  At hearing the suggestion of a rather bold vision for Upham's Corner (incongruous given its reputation), he looked up and said:  "Here?"  as if to say:  "What! Are you crazy?"  Which just means that we have our work cut out for us. 

We love Mayor Menino.  We love all of the elected officials but we want our DAY IN COURT!

Click images to enlarge

Upham's Corner Boundaries

Educational Campus for Upham's Corner
Upham's Corner Boundaries
Campus of Education and the Arts

The community of Upham's Corner remembers well the BRA's announcement of a new planning initiative for Upham's Corner to begin May, 2011.  "Finally, we have waited long enough."

May 2011 came and went.  It felt like the train (Fairmount) heading on down the line to the next month and the next. 

Promises, they gave, to pay attention to the customers on the Fairmount line when the "optional" Upham's Corner stop was announced.  Promises the City gave that the Upham's Corner planning initiative was still in the works.

Or better still, the day Fairmount train crew "assumed" that NO ONE was getting off at Upham's Corner.  No annoucement, no stopping.  The Upham's Corner station stop did not exist.  Whizzing on by at break neck speed, they required this angry passenger go to "china" to get home.

The BRA?  Are they now driving the Fairmount train?  Will they remember to stop in Upham's Corner?  They don't dare forget that Upham's Corner exists but are they willing to make a HUGE difference in our community?  Or is this just an exercise in a few superficial perks?

There are two ways to deal with life:
  • Assume the worst and never be disappointed
  • Assume the best and get disappointed all the time
Upham's Corner deserves the BEST not the WORST.  Always assume that our community will get exactly what it deserves.  Disappointed?  Pick up the pieces, chuck it off to experience and start making the phone calls.  Don't ever let them (the City) forget.

Suddenly $money$ comes rolling into the BRA for a TRANSPORTATION planning initiative. Interesting!  Two for one.  Let's roll the Upham's Corner planning initiative into the Fairmount planning initiative (so says Ines Palmerin of the BRA). 

"Ah!  Now we can attend to Upham's Corner.  We have to stop there anyway as part of the Fairmount Corridor project.  Why not do Upham's Corner planning at the same time."

A bit disappointing. 
  1. First, Upham's Corner was promised a PLANNING initiative.  The Fairmount effort is a TRANSPORTATION initiative.
  2. Second, can the BRA give Upham's Corner its full due given the scope?
Still, Upham's Corner residents attended the Feb 21st event and awaited the acknowledgement of our community with anticipation.  We waited with blush surpressed, ready to issue it at the mere sound of the name "Upham's Corner." 
  • Not one word about Upham's Corner except to say we are a STOP on the Fairmount line.
  • Not one comment about the BRA "rolling the Upham's Corner Planning Initiative" into the Fairmount Corridor transportation initiative.
  • Not one speaker from Upham's Corner
The. only organization mentioned was Brother's Market because they provided some of the food.

Another disappointment - ever unexpected - even though the City of Boston has been ignoring Upham's Corner for a long time. 
The beautiful Strand?  Yes!  Pour money into that.  The community it sits in?  Well, hopefully some of the glitter of the Strand will rub off.

That's a HUGE problem - might we say challenge. 

What do people think about Upham's Corner?  Ask a politician or the BRA and see if they 'lie.'  "Of course I'm concerned about Upham's Corner."  Yet the politicians (some of them) rarely show their faces in our community.  They certainly don't spend much time with the residents.

Ask the Census Bureau what they think of Upham's Corner: densely populated, low educational attainment, lots of single parents, highly eclectic collection of ethnic groups and races, many of whom do not speak English. 

What does that tell you about the potential of Upham's Corner to rise to the top? It tells you that people will make assumptions and even bring out their prejuidice knives, cutting off communication, funding and energies. Not that the community is completely ignored.  But given the number of choices available for locating new projects, would Upham's Corner rise to the top?

From within the community, the feelings, energies and visions may be completely different.  How much does it change the potential of a community when the grass begins to grow?  All depends.  If you are burdened with economic and family challenges, proclaiming your ability to conquer the world may get you brushed aside because you lack the wherewithall to catch the bus on time.

Still, it doesn't hurt to ask.  It doesn't hurt to dream.  And it doesn't hurt to connect.

Several groups in Upham's Corner have been meeting to discuss a new vision for our community.  All pie in the sky stuff but spoken with the heat of molten steel - red hot and impassioned. 

Upham's Corner lacks an economic engine and Upham's Corner and the adjacent communities need adullt education.

Groups that focus on replacing the brick in the sidewalk with concrete  or better street lights or better store fronts are well meaning but they are not addressing the fundamental problems and challenges of the community.  Changes to the appearance are never going to address the problems of low education attainment, low job skills, poor language skills with the presence of incredible arts theater in the midst.

"Where are the plans?  Where's the funding?"  Mayor Menino was right to ask. 

Communities, on the other hand, must start at the "heart" of the matter, at the impassioned visions propelling people of the community forward.  And the people must acknowledge that the world is watching.  Upham's Corner has an unenviable reputation provoking fear but for the people who live here, a warmth and charm like none other.

Trouble is:  Mayor Menino doesn't live here and he doesn't walk the streets enveloped by a set of cultures that bring people of color, "foreign" languages and unexpected possibilities into our lives. 

So when UC News shared the vision with the Mayor - an Upham's Corner as an arts destination, an Upham's Corner as a campus of education and the arts, a Strand Theatre with a reputation to "die for"  - how did the Mayor respond?  "Here?" he interjected - as if to say:  "What!  Are you crazy?"

How did Councilor Charles Yancey respond?  You should have seen the smile on his face.  "I like it," he said.
Educational Campus for Upham's Corner


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