Dreaming bigger and thinking bolder - LISC in Boston's Codman Square

An inner-city neighborhood in Boston, supported by LISC and the Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corp., provides a strong example of community-driven revitalization.

8 Nov 2012 - Sam Dolgin-Gardner

Kaid Benfield, Director of Sustainable Communities for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and an expert on LEED-Neighborhood Development ratings, has written a a series of articles in The Atlantic Cities profiling the revitalization of Boston's Codman Square neighborhood. Once-neglected streets are being turned into walkable mixed-use corridors, and Boston LISC is right in the center of it all with a multi-layered strategic approach to developing sustainable communities.

In 2011, Boston LISC Program Officer Melissa Jones and Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation (NDC) Community Organizer Jenna Tourjé began working on "Millennium 10," a comprehensive long-term plan for Codman Square. Working with the Millenium 10 steering committee, they surveyed over 600 residents, conducted dozens of in-depth, one-on-one interviews and began pilot projects to combat the most urgent problems, such as cleaning trash off the streets and holding summer festivals in parks to begin connecting neighbors with each other. The plan calls for the creation of a community-oriented, economically thriving neighborhood with healthy green spaces and opportunities for youth.

LISC has a decades-long relationship with the Codman Square NDC), and many ongoing projects support the Millennium 10 plan. The centerpiece is the streets near the MBTA's new Talbot Street Station, due to open in the winter of 2012. Working with the Codman Square NDC, we invested $1.3 million for the Codman Square NDC to buy dilapidated commercial sites along New England Avenue, adjacent to the train station. The buildings will be transformed into retail and mixed-income housing developments, a need that Benfield identifies in his article:

"What you want to support is transit and the right kind of transit-oriented development is a high degree of walkability; the last thing you want is a sketchy, heavily traveled road with no amenities for people and no safe place to walk."

A major pillar of Millennium 10 is green and healthy development. To determine innovative green solutions for the neighborhood, LISC, its community partners and the NRDC organized a three-day long charette, bringing together Codman Square NDC, neighborhood residents, and LEED experts affiliated with NRDC to assess the neighborhood for green opportunities, bringing in new ideas like deep energy retrofits and distributive energy generation and supporting tested solutions like community gardens and playgrounds. In addition, much thought was given to using walkability and transit-access in the neighborhood as a way to support the local economy by creating new opportunities for connecting small businesses to a broader customer base.

According to LISC National Green Development Center Director Madeline Fraser Cook, "If you're going to do green development in any low-income community in this country, you do it here. All of the pieces are in place. You have Codman Square NDC, a sophisticated community organization creating opportunities for development; community organizers like Jenna Tourjé at CSNDC and Paul Malkemes from the Talbot Norfolk Triangle Neighborhood Association bringing the community into the project; the environmental expertise of the NRDC; critical financing from LISC; and a City that supports it through the Boston Redevelopment Authority."

In some other neighborhoods of Boston, revitalization has lead to gentrification. LISC knew that many low-income residents were worried about being displaced, so they made sure that Codman Square residents were fully engaged in the project by ensuring that residents and community leaders have a strong voice in the planning process. The ultimate goal is a healthier, greener neighborhood that includes energy efficient affordable housing for low-income families that helps reduce utility costs, growth for local businesses, and job opportunities for residents.

The secret of LISC's success is simple: by bringing together financial, technical and local resources, neighborhoods like Codman Square and its residents can dream bigger and think bolder, creating stronger community bonds and economic opportunities at the same time.

Read related articles below.

One Incredibly Easy Way to Let People Know Your Neighborhood Is Getting Better

5 Oct 2012 - Kaid Benfield


As part of a three-day intensive green planning meeting earlier this week, I had the honor of joining a walking tour of an inner-city Boston neighborhood that has had its share of struggles but also has reason for hope. Among struggles, for example, it has been plagued by incidents of drug dealing, crime, property deterioration and vacancy, and economic distress.

But the neighborhood is also highly walkable; has several examples of good, new affordable housing and mixed-use development, much of it put in place by the nonprofit but very active Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation; and is getting two new commuter rail stations opening next month. It also appears to have a terrific network of community organizations and leaders, a diverse population (47 percent black, 29 percent white, 12 percent Latino), and a range of neighborhood assets including a library, YMCA, churches, banks, affordable housing, health care centers, great bus transit access and many small businesses and shops.

We're helping the neighborhood shape its own revitalization with green development principles. Our team from NRDC and our national community development partner, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (see my earlier description of LISC’s important energy efficiency work in Boston neighborhoods), were wonderfully hosted on the tour and during the meeting by the CSNDC and a citizens’ group, the Talbot Norfolk Triangle (TNT) Neighbors United. The TNT section of the neighborhood, adjacent to one of the new transit stations, is our focus. Continued[+]...

> Read full post on The Atlantic Cities.

This Is What a Neighborhood Revitalization Actually Looks Like

18 Oct 2012 - Kaid Benfield


© 2012 FK Benfield

The photo just above shows an auto repair shop in the heart of Boston's Codman Square neighborhood, about six miles south of downtown. The shop has residential development on all sides and, if you're thinking about community improvement, your first thought might be that it doesn't belong there, and your second might be to consider how to be rid of it.

Except, in this case, you couldn’t be more wrong. Within the next year, the shop will be one of the community's most visible green assets. It will have a green roof to absorb stormwater and reduce the need for air conditioning, and solar panels to generate its electricity through renewable energy. Its owner, Larry Dossantos, is deeply committed to a rejuvenated, greener community, and he attended and made significant positive contributions to the community planning meetings held there earlier this month. In actuality, the shop is providing jobs, environmental stewardship, and long-term dedication to the neighborhood. The worst thing the community could do would be to turn its back on this kind of locally based leadership and green entrepreneurship.

Not all business owners in all neighborhoods are as enlightened or benign, of course, and figuring out whether and how to have different kinds of businesses, including sometimes messy ones, in a community alongside homes, churches, and schools is not always easy. But Codman Square is no ordinary neighborhood.

As I wrote in my previous article, the nonprofit, community-based Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and the Natural Resources Defense Council are partnering with the community (including, significantly, a group called Talbot Norfolk Triangle (TNT) Neighbors United) to help it realize its goal of a more sustainable future. The partners are using LEED for Neighborhood Development as a planning tool, and by applying it have compiled a detailed assessment of the TNT district's current strengths and opportunities for improvement. Continued[+]...

> Read full post on The Atlantic Cities.

> Boston LISC website

Article Type: LISC Article