Vision: The Whittier neighborhood is a resilient community that celebrates its history and welcomes residents from all walks of life. Building on its rich heritage, the neighborhood is steadily modernizing into an attractive, innovative district that has quality, sustainable rental and homeownership housing for a variety of income levels; safe, lively streets; excellent schools and economic opportunities for residents; and a thriving array of local businesses, services and amenities.
Goal: Reconnect the neighborhood through the development of long-term vacant land.
Vacant parcels of land that disrupt key travel pathways in the neighborhood will be purposed as sites for a hotel, housing, and retail. Partners include P-3 Partners, Urbanica, Tropical Foods, MPDC, and Nuestra Comunidad. BHA will also commit new project-based vouchers to increase housing choice and mobility for current public housing residents.
Goal: Create an integrated network of pedestrian, bike, vehicular and transit routes that offer safe, accessible and attractive transportation options within the neighborhood and to citywide destinations and employment centers.
The City has committed $14.6M for infrastructure investments to reconstruct six key intersections via Dudley Square Complete Streets; new through-streets on the Whittier site; and street/sidewalk upgrades along Ruggles Street and throughout Madison Park Village. To complement these investments, the Choice Neighborhood Plan will enhance the Ruggles Gateway – a strategic one-half mile connection from the Ruggles rapid transit station to Dudley Square – by narrowing the widest stretch of Ruggles Street to residential scale, and making “complete street” improvements including widening of sidewalks, bike lane markings, new lighting, security cameras, and new trees. The plan also calls for enhanced place-making by (1) creating a welcoming “gateway” entry with street furniture, art and cultural markers, and attractive landscaping at the intersection of Ruggles and Tremont; and (2) redesigning a portion of the city park as a focal point for community activity at the intersection of Ruggles and Dewitt (“Dewitt Crossing”) where the Dewitt Community Center will soon be under construction. Dewitt Crossing will include new small-scale neighborhood uses, a children’s playground, lawn, community gardens, a water feature, and an area for public sculpture and artwork.
Arts & Culture
Goal: Seek formal designation as a state Arts and Cultural District to celebrate and leverage the neighborhood’s history and cultural assets.
The Whittier Choice Neighborhood plan will support the implementation of the new Arts and Cultural District in three of four public realm nodes distributed across the neighborhood, providing interconnected elements of art, history, play, education, and commerce. CNI will help to:
- Create a public performance space for music, dance, and theatre at the National Center for Afro-American Artists (NCAAA), a new, state-of-the-art museum to be located at Tremont Crossing on P-3 abutting the Whittier site
- Provide gap financing for a Visitor/Orientation Center to be located at the corner of Washington Street and Melnea Cass Boulevard, in the restored, landmarked Owen Nawn Factory
- Support the construction of Bartlett Station Plaza a 15,000 SF public plaza in Nuestra Comunidad’s new mixed-use development at Bartlett Yard serving as a venue for local artists and vendors as well as year-round cultural events.
These nodes in the Arts and Cultural District will be supplemented by the redesigned park at Dewitt Crossing (described above). The new plaza in the park will support larger public events such as outdoor concerts as well as smaller-scale, family-focused activity. Ruggles Gateway (described above) will serve as the central axis between the nodes and encourage physical connectivity between these cultural anchor institutions and other arts and cultural assets in the WCN. Ruggles Gateway will include public art entries/gateways as well as a wayfinding system to guide residents and visitors to the key nodes. Additionally, a well-defined system of routes, enhanced by technology, will encourage residents and visitors to explore the neighborhood and its other cultural assets such as the Roxbury Memory Trail.
Small Business Support
Goal: Support existing small businesses as well as new ones to serve the growing Whittier neighborhood population and build off of investments in cultural anchor institutions.
CNI will leverage City matching grants for exterior renovation of commercial façades in Dudley Square to create an enhanced ReStore program, providing more and larger grants to promote retail in this “downtown” area. CNI will also support the Retail Incubation and Co-working Program by subsidizing and fitting out small, flexible retail units for small businesses at multiple sites in the neighborhood. Epicenter Community (EC) will administer the program and work with a coalition of incubator and accelerator programs to create a pipeline of tenants for these subsidized retail units. Additional small business support will be provided via a revolving loan fund comprised of Kiva Zip loans, offered in partnership with LISC Boston, to support businesses participating in the Retail Incubation and Co-working Program. Northeastern University’s commitment to strengthen procurement opportunities for neighborhood businesses will also boost the area’s economic development.
Homebuyer and Homeowner Support
Goal: Increase homeownership by supporting low and moderate income homebuyers as well as existing homeowners.
The Whittier Neighborhood Plan aims to increase the number of new homebuyers, with a focus on supporting first-time affordable homeownership, by partnering with the City’s Boston Home Center (BHC) to offer down payment assistance and mortgage write-down subsidies. CNI will also supplement BHC assistance to help low-income homeowners in the Whittier neighborhood to make exterior façade repairs. In addition, BHC will offer workshops to neighborhood homeowners on hiring contractors, seasonal home maintenance, and the City’s affordable loan/grant and technical assistance programs for homeowners.
Goal: Expand the City’s Wicked Free WiFi service in Lower Roxbury.
Dudley Square has been identified as a priority area for technology investments, with Verizon making a $2M investment in fiber optics (FIOS), building upon the more than $600,000 in investments made by the City in the Whittier Neighborhood in the past three years. To augment these broadband investments, POAH will work with the City to install infrastructure during construction to make free WiFi available to residents in their replacement housing units. The City will then deploy its Wicked Free WiFi to specific locations on building exteriors, rooftops and street lights to ensure all external areas have coverage for connection and use when residents are outside of the buildings.
Goal: Improve public safety through enhanced community policing patrols and engagement.
The Boston Police Department is committed to adding patrols for Whittier neighborhood hot spots, particularly along the Ruggles Gateway and near Madison Park Technical Vocational High School. They will increase police presence at community meetings and will work collaboratively with Madison Park Development Corporation to expand the Violence Intervention and Prevention (VIP) program that has been successful at Orchard Gardens and Madison Park Village to the Whittier Street Apartment. BPD will also engage in more police-youth trust-building activities through dialogues, basketball games, Peace Walks and expansion of the Youth Police Academy at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School and will sponsor more community events where they work with the community to “take back” hot spots via community-building events such as ice cream festivals. BHA and partners are committed to utilizing Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) as a guiding principle for all of the housing development and neighborhood improvements proposed in this plan, including investing in new security cameras to be monitored by BPD at key neighborhood hot spots.