Conservation land, affordable housing opportunities expanded in Roslindale
In a cross-departmental effort to support both Boston’s climate-ready resiliency and the creation of new affordable home ownership units, Mayor Kim Janey today announced that the property at 108 Walter Street in Roslindale was transferred to the Boston Conservation Commission and will be added to the Roslindale Wetlands Urban Wild, providing close to an acre of buffer at the edge of the Roslindale Wetlands, as well as a more accessible point of entry to the existing urban wild. In 2020, the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) acquired 104-108 Walter Street in Roslindale to expand the Roslindale Wetlands Urban Wild and create affordable housing. The parcel at 104 Walter Street has been designated for affordable homeownership units.
“The procurement of these parcels offers the City of Boston a unique opportunity to protect our wetlands and build needed affordable housing units in Roslindale," said Mayor Janey. “I’m grateful to the community advocates who worked alongside City agencies to simultaneously expand open space and housing opportunities.”
The BPDA used its Urban Renewal tools to acquire the private 104-108 Walter Street parcel for $1.4 million to support affordable housing and protect wetland resources. In April, the BPDA issued an RFP for four affordable homeownership units at 104 Walter Street, and the responses are currently under review.
The Walter Street acquisition makes progress on several strategies included in Boston’s Climate Action Plan, such as expanding green infrastructure, growing the urban tree canopy, and accelerating neighborhood stormwater management actions. A 35,000 square foot parcel has been added to the existing 9.5-acre Roslindale Wetlands Urban Wild, offering habitat protection and trail connections in the property, which is in the top five of Boston’s land acquisition priority sites and was the largest unprotected property in the Roslindale Wetlands Urban Wild. To pay for this acquisition on behalf of the Conservation Commission, the Boston Parks and Recreation Department received a state Landscape Acquisition for Natural Diversity (LAND) grant and used a FY21 Capital Budget initiative, called the Climate Resilience Reserve.
"Wetlands like the Roslindale Wetlands Urban Wild are vital to Boston's natural environment, water quality, and our resilience as we face the impacts of heat, stormwater flooding, and pollution," said Reverend Mariama White-Hammond, the Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space. "The Walter Street acquisition shows that equity, affordable housing development, and climate resilience can and should go hand-in-hand. We look forward to more opportunities like this to create a greener, healthier, and more equitable city for our residents."
The Roslindale Wetlands Urban Wild is regionally significant as one of the few remaining protected natural areas with sizable wetlands in urbanized Boston. Conservation of 108 Walter Street will provide prominent public access, connection to the Emerald Necklace, and secure a trail connection and habitat protection for the Roslindale Wetlands Urban Wild. The Boston Parks and Recreation Department’s Urban Wilds Program is investing $500,000 in capital improvements elsewhere in the Roslindale Wetlands Urban Wild, which includes wetlands crossings, trail upgrades with footbridges for ADA accessibility for walking and birdwatching, removing piles of dumped construction debris, and other ecological restoration work. This site also provides habitat for pollinators and the local ecosystem that contributes to the health of nearby gardens and Lawrence Farm, Boston’s only farm. Construction work for the improvements in the Roslindale Wetlands begins this month.
“It is exciting to see the City’s new Local Wetlands Ordinance be used so quickly to add to and further protect such important wetlands resource areas,” said Michael Parker, Chair of the Boston Conservation Commission. “To be able to do so while creating much needed affordable housing adjacent to protected open space fulfills the City’s vision of equitable access to, and enjoyment of, quality open space. The Roslindale Wetlands Urban Wild is a treasure and will be kept that way for future generations to enjoy as much as we do now.”
Building on the partnerships formed around the design and passage of Boston’s Local Wetlands Ordinance in December 2019, the City worked collaboratively with neighborhood stakeholders and local advocates to protect natural climate-resilient resources and affordable housing assets in the densely built up neighborhood of Roslindale. To strengthen the City’s efforts to maintain accessible open space, neighborhood volunteers are in the early stages of planning strategies to widen access and are exploring the creation of audio tours and maps.
“We are thrilled that the City of Boston is acquiring 104-108 Walter Street for climate resiliency and four units of affordable home ownership, addressing a critical neighborhood need. LANA is heartened by the City’s response to conserve this unique habitat as part of the Roslindale Wetlands Urban Wild and advance equity with the creation of affordable homeownership. We want to thank our neighbors and partners for their help and support in making the acquisition happen. We’re looking forward to working with the City on the next steps for developing affordable home ownership at 104 Walter and providing better access to the Roslindale Wetlands Urban Wild," said Kathy McCabe, President, Longfellow Area Neighborhood Association.
“For nearly twenty years the Roslindale community and the Roslindale Wetlands Task Force have advocated for such an outcome through community outreach and awareness, sustained advocacy, and constructive engagement with past and present elected officials and agencies committed to protecting these resources. Today’s announcement by Mayor Janey captures why this is such a great victory not only for Roslindale but for the entire city,” said Jim Taff, Roslindale Wetlands Task Force.
In December 2019, the City of Boston signed the Local Wetland Ordinance, an ordinance unanimously approved by the Boston City Council, with the goal of taking another step to protect Boston against the impacts of climate change and promote climate resiliency throughout the City. The Local Wetlands Ordinance gives the City greater authority to protect its wetlands, which are crucial to controlling flooding and protecting Boston's neighborhoods and green space. The ordinance directs the Boston Conservation Commission to consider future climate impacts like rising sea levels in applications for new developments, construction, or special events. It was informed by Boston’s Climate Ready Boston report, which shows when and where different climate impacts will affect our City.