Friday, May 18, 2012

Urban renewal and Barry's Corner

Barry's Corner, 1925 and today (courtesy: BAHistory and Google)

While doing some research I came across an interesting (though old) article written about the history of a small neighborhood in the Allston section of Boston. I am familiar with the site and knew vaguely about its past but did not realize that the events that had occurred there in the 1960s were an echo of the same sort of urban renewal tragedy in the better-known West End.
A compact working-class neighborhood of 9.3 acres, Barry's corner contained only 52 structures housing a total of just seventy-one families Its ethnic composition was mostly Irish and Italian, with a sprinkling of Polish and French families. [...]

The BRA's plan called for the demolition of the existing 52 structures, and the construction on the cleared acreage (by well-connected developers), of a $4.5 million ten-story, 372 unit luxury apartment building, to be paid for largely with federal money. The BRA contended that the Barry's Corner structures were blighted, a charge the residents hotly disputed. The authority also noted that the existing neighborhood was yielding the city relatively little tax revenue. The proposed luxury complex would pay $150,000 as compared to the $15,000 the Barry's Corner properties were contributing. The BRA assured the public that "every effort is being made to assure that the residents now living in the area are provided with suitable new homes."
Eventually, the luxury apartment plan was abandoned, and a set of affordable apartments called Charlesview was built on part of the bulldozed land. Those buildings have been in the news lately and for the past few years because they are already falling apart and need to be replaced. Also, Harvard wants the land for its growing Allston campus and has arranged a swap, putting the new Charlesview down the road at Brighton Mills.

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