Mayor Walsh Crowdsources the Future Of Boston

This week, Mayor Walsh unveiled Imagine Boston 2030, the city’s first planning initiative since 1965. While the plan is in its infancy, it’s hard not to be excited about it.

Walsh’s plan hit on eight key elements:

  • Housing: Building housing that keeps Boston accessible to all
  • Mobility: Creating an efficient, equitable, sustainable transportation system
  • Environment and Adaptation: Using natural resources wisely while preparing for the impacts of a changing climate
  • Parks and Open Space: Providing world-class spaces for recreation and public life
  • Prosperity and Equity: Creating jobs and supporting education and workforce development infrastructure to broaden economic opportunity
  • Arts, Culture, and Creativity: Enriching Boston and harnessing our creative potential in all endeavors
  • Design and Placemaking: Building on a rich tradition of creating vibrant urban places and neighborhoods
  • Health: Improving and sustaining the health of Boston’s population

 

Walsh is hitting all of the right notes in the early stages of this initiative. It’s comprehensive, forward-thinking and addresses the major challenges currently and potentially facing Boston. I am particularly interested in and concerned with the first five topics so it’s reassuring to see them, particularly housing, at the onset.

This announcement also comes at an interesting time for Mayor Walsh. A day before, The Boston Globe published an editorial on how Boston 2024 could achieve significant public support for the bid which included this criticism:

One thing has been conspicuously missing from Walsh’s Olympic sales pitch: any details of what changes, exactly, the Games are supposed to catalyze. It’s all well and good to say the Olympics can transform the city — so can a tornado. Voters want to know what’s going to be transformed, and how. What are the problems of Boston in 2015 that Walsh wants Boston 2024 to solve, and where are the opportunities the strongest?

Again, Imagine Boston 2030 is still a very young effort, but its intent is to address the aforementioned issues. I’ve previously expressed my skepticism for Boston 2024, but I appreciated the idea of planning for Boston’s future to make the city bigger and better than it is at present. What Walsh demonstrates with Imagine Boston 2030 is that we can have these conversations independent of an event that Globe Magazine writer Neil Swidey has described as potentially being “as fiscally prudent as buying a flat-screen TV from Rent-A-Center.”

As is the case with most announcements, it’s not just about what’s being said but also how it’s being said. The Walsh administration has pledged to make the planning a truly collaborative community effort, with input sought from residents of all backgrounds. The biggest complaint from critics of Boston 2024 is that they’re apprehensive of the fallout from the Olympics and its effect on the city, be it through displacement or gentrification. This plan reads more like a “for Boston, by Bostonians,” and not just some Bostonians – all Bostonians. Walsh is the first mayor since John Collins to create a master plan, and, if he’s wise, he’ll utilize its predecessor’s successes and failures to shape this incarnation while also incorporating the feedback (for better or for worse) Boston 2024 has received from Bostonians.

Mayor Walsh has shown no aversion to thinking big. This plan is his determination to leave a legacy for Boston and with Imagine Boston 2030, I think he has a winner. There’s still much work left to be done before the final plan is presented in 2017, but this announcement is a great first step.  

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