With the primary election less than a week away, many mayoral candidates seeking to replace Boston Mayor Thomas Menino are releasing proposals of ideas they have to improve the community, including Mass. Rep. Martin Walsh, who announced on Sunday that he wants to sell City Hall Plaza.
The plan is one of many in the candidate’s effort to improve neighborhood development, create affordable housing and modernize the city of Boston, said Kate Norton, press secretary of Walsh’s campaign.
“The whole idea is that the downtown area has to go from the nine-to-five weekday government dependent piece of land, and move towards the 24/7 business model,” she said. “The sale has the potential to generate $125 million to $150 million in one-time revenue.”
Walsh said in a Sunday press release the plan to relocate City Hall has the potential to drive economic growth.
“A twenty-first century economy has emerged, and the new mayor must refocus the development to the core economic engine of the city, the downtown,” he said. “This area must evolve from a nine-to-five weekday government-dependent culture to a culture economically driven to add value to surrounding businesses and neighborhoods.”
City Councilor Michael Ross criticized Walsh’s proposal and said it is stale and unimaginative and is a means of hoping to distinguish himself in these last few days.
Joshua Gee, spokesman for the Ross campaign, said developing City Hall and downtown should not be the focus of the new mayor.
“Developing City Hall isn’t necessarily a good idea or a bad idea, it’s more just that the focus for the next mayor shouldn’t be downtown and City Hall,” he said. “We need to be growing our neighborhoods. Marty’s proposal represents a fundamental lack of vision … the next mayor of Boston needs to focus development in the neighborhoods that need it and that’s what Mike Ross will do.”
Norton said this plan for City Hall Plaza is only one project among many for the Walsh campaign.
“The important piece to understand is that this isn’t the only plan that he’s proposing,” she said. “This is one piece of a series of a robust plans for affordable housing and workforce housing. There’s a whole host of creative plans from neighborhood development to economic programs, and developing City Hall Plaza will benefit the neighborhoods in a lot of ways.”
Some residents said modernizing City Hall and the area surrounding it is important, but candidates should focus on modernizing other aspects of the city first.
Ashley Petrolati, 25, resident of Hyde Park, said if the next mayor wants to update Boston, they should start with public transportation.
“There are bigger issues for me than whether or not a building is used 24 hours a day or how it looks to the rest of the world,” she said. “If we’re trying to make Boston a more modern city, then let’s start with our train system, let’s start with things that people really care about.”
Erika Barber, resident of Randolph and worker at Boston Healthcare for the Homeless, said the next mayor should focus more on other areas of the city besides downtown.
“There’s already a lot of businesses around there [City Hall] — there’s a lot of restaurants, [but] there’s not a lot of 24 hours, but that’s because Boston is not a 24-hour city, so putting a diner in there that’s 24 hours is not going to change anything,” she said. “If I lived in the city, I would probably support a candidate that was looking to do more in Mattapan, in North Dorchester, in Roxbury and some other areas of the city.”
Although he would love Boston to become a more modern city, Lee Kupferman, 34, of Franklin, said focusing on neighborhoods that need development is more important
“I would love to modernize, but we need to go with the neighborhoods that need help,” he said. “At the same time, there has to be a point when you realize it’s a big city and there’s no way you’re going to be able to conquer all of those bad areas.”