In the spring of 2012, Enrique Silva, Assistant Professor of City Planning and Urban Affairs at Boston University’s Metropolitan College (MET), led a graduate-level seminar called the Boston Urban Symposium. The Symposium included collecting and analyzing background and demographic research, site feasibility and design, and writing grant and financing proposals, as the main objective of the course was to take real action.
The Symposium partnered with Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation (CSNDC), which aims to build a “better, stronger community in Codman Square and South Dorchester by creating housing and commercial spaces that are safe, sustainable, and affordable, promoting financial and economic stability for residents and for the neighborhood, and providing residents of all ages with opportunities and skills to empower themselves to improve their lives.” Students from the Symposium were asked to be consultants for 100 Ballou Avenue, a relatively isolated site that lacks resources for healthy lifestyles.
By the end of the semester, the Symposium put forth a proposal for the site that focused heavily on the use and benefits of urban agriculture. Historically, disadvantaged communities have had limited access to healthy food, an issue that the City of Boston has been looking to tackle. Focusing on urban agriculture, the Symposium proposal for a new community-friendly space included several raised gardening beds, a tot lot, and a building to house classrooms and demonstration kitchens. The hope is that through community engagement, education and participation, access to fresh food and vegetables would help cultivate a healthier lifestyle, and lead to sustainability and neighborhood vitality. With the tagline “Play, Learn and Grow,” the proposal encourages access to healthy food, gardening knowledge, and empowers the residents to grow food on site.
The Symposium’s proposal has grown roots: on Saturday, January 18th, the CSNDC along with Fairmount Indigo Corridor Collaborative, hosted the “Design Charette for the Oasis on Ballou Avenue” where several elements of the Boston Urban Symposium proposal were discussed. The goal of the charette was to draft capital and operating budgets, as well as schedules and site plans. Participants at the charette included representatives from Friends of Ballou, a neighborhood group dedicated to making the project a reality, as well as architects, planners, and academic professionals interested in sustainability. The discussions and conceptual site layouts and features that resulted from the charette will be instrumental in assisting CSNDC and the Fairmount Collaborative with moving forward to secure the site and begin to put elements of the plan into action.
While big plans for Ballou Avenue are in the works, there is still a lot more to be done. The CSDNC has asked the Boston Urban Symposium to help develop a plan to manage socio-economic transformation in the neighborhood. Continued success appears to be on the drafting board for this worthy project.
A special thank you to Carsten Snow for the photo and additional information.