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Commonwealth Cooperative Bank
xtra xtra!
Rooney Real Estate
June 27, 2013
South Boston Gateways
By Rick Winterson

South Boston was, is, and always will be a peninsula.  When it was farmland in colonial times, the only land access was from the southwest, along what is now Boston Street.  Even that was an unreliable route during the spring and fall high-course tides.

South Boston’s Fort Point Channel at the western base of our peninsula has now been officially declared a “watersheet”, which means that it will be preserved as such forever.  The Reserved Channel at the other end of the peninsula is a busy port facility.  It’ll become much busier, as cruise ships increasingly come to the Black Falcon Terminal, and within the Conley container terminal after the Panama Canal expansion comes on line in 2014.

The residential, hospitality, and commercial enterprises along the South Boston Waterfront will ensure that our Waterfront to the north remains just that - a waterfront.  The magnificent beaches and the recreational facilities along South Boston’s southern shores, from Moakley Park to Carson Beach to the Curley Center to Pleasure Bay and Castle Island, are permanent amenities as well.

The upshot is that 80% of South Boston is now (and will remain) bordered by salt water.But you have to have Gateways onto the South Boston peninsula.

Day Boulevard is the southern Gateway to our beaches.  It’s a beautiful drive and a true boulevard-by-the-sea.  The only colonial land route, along Boston Street, passes through one of Dorchester’s most historic districts and ends in Andrew Square.  The Square is not just the original Gateway to South Boston, back when it was called the Heights as often as not.  It’s still our busiest intersection, with Southampton Street, Dorchester Street, Preble Street, and Dorchester Avenue thrown in with Boston Street, along with a thriving Red Line Station and bus terminal.

The intersection of West Broadway and Dorchester Avenue around the Red Line’s Broadway Station is the third major Gateway into the old hometown’s residential areas.  This Gateway actually comprises the Jim Kelly Bridge and the Fourth Street Bridge.  And it’s ocean front in a way – the Fort Point Channel winds around to its end on the southern side of the Fourth Street Bridge.  The Fourth Street Bridge leads bus and auto traffic into South Boston from the South End and Copley Square.  The Kelly Bridge, if you don’t read the very few signs carefully, leads to almost any place you don’t really want to go.  Hey, that saves on parking spaces.Summer Street, which lets down to A Street via Melcher, turns into L Street , and is the fourth major Gateway into South Boston.  At least for the moment.  It passes the Convention Center and crosses the Reserved Channel.  It’s also the main route to the Design Center, South Boston’s Marine Industrial Park, and many other commercial enterprises.

There are three additional bridges to the north of the Summer Street Gateway – the Congress Street Bridge, the Evelyn Moakley Bridge, and the mostly rusted-out Northern Avenue Bridge.  The latter is still a useless drawbridge, as well as a pedestrian Gateway.  Just don’t jump up and down on it too vigorously.  Actually, that bridge/Gateway should be torn down and trashed!

The Congress Street Bridge and the Moakley Bridge both span the Fort Point Channel, leading into the South Boston Waterfront along Congress Street and Seaport Boulevard, respectively.  These may not constitute real “Gateways” (at least not right now), because the area they serve is still being built up – with largely unplanned traffic patterns and unimaginative architecture.  The architecture looks as if it was copped from the less attractive parts of Manhattan, or perhaps from the wall in the Automat with the sandwiches behind all those glass doors.  When the most intriguing new structures along the Waterfront are the tunnel ventilators for the Big Dig, there are certainly some fundamental design problems.

Speaking of problems, the overall traffic situation is still a huge question mark, as South Boston grows.  For example, a Haul Road has been promised by the Conley Terminal, but it’s still going to empty out on Summer Street near the Reserved Channel.  What happens from there?  And how about developing a coherent parking plan, which is part of the overall traffic problems.

Which brings up another question:  How was permission to build the new, multi-story parking lot on A Street in Fort Point ever obtained?  Boston is a so-called “non-attainment area” because of its air pollution.  No new facilities for cars can be permitted without offsets, according to Federal EPA regulations.  So what happened at the BRA and the Zoning Board?  And besides, the parking facility is terminally ugly.  As in “ugly”.

We haven’t mentioned the “Crossroads” – A and D Streets - but they are important access routes, also.  So welcome to South Boston, the (partly unintentional) Gateway City.  Please close and latch the Gateways behind you when you come home at night.



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