What’s Holding Eastie Back?

March 16, 2012
By

It has been about three months since Mayor Menino announced that he was creating a development scenario for East Boston’s waterfront that would reincarnate the waterfront.

The East Boston waterfront was to go from something largely underutilized to something booming and destined to appear far different than it does today.

What’s holding back all the good news supposed to be happening?

Part of the hold-up is caution.

Many developers over the years have been lured here, spent their seed money creating detailed plans only to be shot down by the neighborhood or by reversals in the economy.

East Boston is not a neighborhood where anything is unanimous, not even the developments meant to change the future for this place brought joy en masse to the neighborhood and its leaders.

East Boston suffers from a great deal of feeling, the perception held by many residents that the place is just fine the way it is and that anything else proposed could ruin the neighborhood.

People who think that way are not visionaries about where this neighborhood can go. Rather, they are residents who don’t want to see anything change and don’t want to help anyone trying to change the place.

After years of trying, many developers simply gave up for a variety of reasons.

Building costs were too high. Rents they could get remained too low. Prices for condo’s weren’t high enough to pay back developers for what they spent building.

And there were other issues – developments on the drawing board went too high, blocked others’ views or were considered too dense for a place already very crowded.

We like to think this has all changed since the mayor made the announcement that East Boston was to become a special development area designated exactly for that by the city.

That news in January at the mayor’s inaugural was like a shot of energy and hope for many in this neighborhood hoping their dreams of a developed East Boston waterfront could finally and forever bring the place into the 21st Century.

With interest rates as low as they are likely ever to be in our lifetimes, with many builders understanding that building now will cost less than in any time in the near future, it is an opportune moment for East Boston to welcome developers, to put bickering aside and to lure them here the way neighboring Chelsea City Manager Jay Ash has been able to do with  several major developments that have created new jobs, new revenue streams and new neighborhoods.

This is what is needed here, and as soon as possible.

The mayor has done what he can do. Even Boston Magazine has given East Boston a boost deeming it one of the best places to live in Massachusetts.

Development doesn’t just happen. Buildings don’t simply take shape and form on their own.

They need a reason to exist.

If ever there were a time when this neighborhood needs to rise up and get things going that time is now.

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