Mayor Brian Arrigo said he wanted the community’s input on the future of Revere throughout the Next Stop Revere master planning process.
In their first public opportunity to weigh in on the plan, many residents accepted the mayor’s invitation and attended the first of two community forums April 10 inside the Revere High School cafeteria.
Arrigo delivered the opening remarks at the forum before turning the podium over to Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) officials who are guiding the master planning process.
“After the turnout that we had in January [for the kickoff], which was amazing and truly showed how invested folks are in making sure the City of Revere realizes its full potential – I’m looking forward to hearing from all of you about your vision,” said Arrigo.
The forum’s focus was on housing, economic development, and the city’s historic and cultural resources.
“I truly believe that now is the time for Revere,” said Arrigo. “We are uniquely positioned with all the right ingredients to unlock the incredible opportunities for our city and for the people of our city,” said Arrigo.
The mayor specifically noted the development potential for the former NECCO and Wonderland Greyhound Park sites.
Betsy Cowan, chief of economic development of the MAPC and one of the project managers, enlightened the audience with a number of interesting statistics about Revere and feedback from the kickoff event that was held on Jan. 15.
“First of all, the population is growing, you all know that, you feel that,” said Cowan, revealing that there are more than 53,000 residents living in the city. “It’s also a very diverse population in terms of the different age groups that represented. Certainly this is a diverse community in terms of racial and ethnic background.”
She said her group is looking at the use of land in Revere in terms of future development.
“Is it used for residential purposes? Is it used for commercial purposes? Combined with zoning and what is allowed in these difference spaces, that will help us analyze what should be built in the city,” said Cowan.
Reflecting on the kickoff event that focused on a number of topics such as affordable housing green space, and safety, Cowan said her team analyzed the feedback from residents and determined that the “key concerns” were (in order of mentions by attendees) traffic, affordable housing, drugs, racism, education/schools, taxes, cleanliness, and lighting.
Alex Koppelman, regional housing and land use planner at the MAPC spoke about the housing elements of the master plan.
“Affordable housing was the No. 1 topic mentioned at the [Jan. 15] meeting,” said Koppelman. “We heard a lot about why people like living in Revere. We heard that it’s an affordable place that’s close to Boston, close to transportation, and amenities like the beach. We also heard that’s it a very diverse city.
“We also heard some concerns about the affordability of housing, particularly for families and whether the new apartments at the beach are meeting the needs of the community,” said Koppelman.
He said housing is considered “affordable” if it costs no more than 30 percent of the household’s income.
“This allows that household to pay for other necessities such as food, transportation, and healthcare,” said Koppelman.
He said the City of Revere has “a diverse range of housing types and that’s good, and the City does expect a lot of new market-rate housing units in the next few years, and that’s exciting for a lot of reasons.”
Josh Eichen, regional planner at the MAPC, talked about economic development, saying the term could mean, “more development in the city, access to better jobs, activating vacant spaces (such as the NECCO factory), hosting community events such as the Sandcastle competition at the beach.”
He said based on community feedback, there were three categories that residents wanted to talk about: employment opportunities at the new hotels being built in Revere; whether competitive wages are being offered by the larger businesses in Revere; and traffic.
“Traffic came up a whole bunch, Revere is a commuting city,” said Eichen. “Twenty-one thousand workers commute outside the city for their employment. About 1,600 work and live in Revere. And Revere is bringing in about 7,000 people to work within the city limits.”
Annis Sengupta, senior arts and cultural planner at the MAPC, spoke about the historic and cultural components of the master plan.
“What we look at are the historic development patterns of the community, the historic preservation activities as priorities, and also the wider spectrum of arts and cultural activities and try to understand the identity of the place and the rich activity that is going,” said Sengupta.
She said some of the feedback that she received from residents were “how much Revere loves its diverse communities and cultures, concerns about racism, and the lack of cultural and recreational opportunities, especially for youth and seniors – and the need for more community gathering space.”
“And we heard about a love for Revere Beach as an historic asset, a regional destination, and as a unique open space,” said Sengupta. “And we also heard about a desire to strengthen its connection to environmental justice and promote is preservation in the face of climate change.”
Cowan said the goal is to present the final master plan to the Planning Board in the early winter of 2020. The next community forum is scheduled for May 8.
The members of the Next Stop Revere Steering Committee are:
Aklog Limeneh Planning Board Member, BIC, Suffolk Downs DAG
Carol Tye School Committee, Former Schools Supt., BIC, DAG
Chris Bright Revere Fire Chief, Suffolk Downs PRB
David Eatough. Conservation Committee Member, Revere High School Teacher
Dean Harris Director of Maintenance and Modernization, Revere Housing Authority
Dianne Kelly Superintendent, Revere Public Schools
Ed Devau Planning Board Member, BIC, Suffolk Downs DAG, Chamber of Commerce
Fatou Drammeh Coordinator, Revere Community School, WEE, Haymarket People’s Fund
Gianpiero Tirella Resident
James Guido Revere Police Chief, Suffolk Downs PRB
Kim Hanton Director of Diversionary Addiction Services, North Suffolk Mental Health, Board of Health
Nicholas Granitsas Revere First Congressional Church
Olga Tacure. Network Leader, PTO Vice President, PLTI, WEE, RHS, Union Capital
Paul Argenzio Department of Public Works Supt., Traffic Commission
Rafael Mares Executive Director, The Neighborhood Developers
Ralph DeCicco Chair/APA Coordinator, Disabilities Commission
Stephen Fielding Director of Elder Affairs, Senior Center
Sylvia Chiang Director, Revere CARES, MGH, Revere on the Move
Wendy Millar-Page Executive Director, Chamber of Commerce