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The Lessons of Boston's Deserted Island Neighborhood

Once upon a time, Boston was going to build a swashbuckling new neighborhood on the ocean. It would jut out from Dorchester's Columbia Point to Thompson Island and would be comparable in size to Beacon Hill, with 45,000 residents; its own T stop; a UMass campus; hundreds of acres of parkland, including museums; and even a geodesic dome (the idea was pitched as part of a 1976 World Expo that never materialized). Long story short (and the long, excellent story by Courtney Humphries can be found here), the new neighborhood over the ocean never happened. It sank under environmental concerns, local politics and just a general sense of meh when it came to sweeping urban changes (many of which did not always sit ultimately well for the city, like the razing of the old West End). Preservation became the buzzword for Boston and a lot of America's older cities. If that meant anemic development and gentrification—and the higher rents and home prices that both can bring—well... sucks to be a newcomer.

Humphries' story in The Globe proposes that the island idea from the Kevin White era be resurrected—not literally, but as a jumping-off point for discussing big, bold ideas for Boston's future, a teachable moment in economic development, if you'll permit. Of course, such discussions are hamstrung right out of the gate by the political infrastructure for approving projects: the oftentimes interminable backs and forths that all but ensure that sweeping changes are off the table in favor of piece-by-piece proposals. That, and anything beyond Boston's borders means sitting down with myriad municipalities, all with their own (self-)interests. Maybe, then, Boston missed its window not in 1976 with the island off Dorchester, but a lifetime earlier, when the state nixed plans for the annexation of 32 cities and towns. Alas.

· Boston’s Lost Island Neighborhood [Globe]
· Why the Hub Housing Market Could Get Worse, Much Worse [Curbed Boston]
· How the West End Was One [Curbed Boston]
· Megaboston! The Plan That (Almost) Ate the Suburbs [Curbed Boston]

[via The Globe]