Square By Square: A Changed Boston, Moving Forward

For the first time in a generation, Boston will have a new mayor. Over the next two months, WBUR will explore the race to replace Mayor Thomas Menino through the eyes of the residents who live and work in Boston and explore how some neighborhoods have changed in the 20 years since Menino was first elected. Check back here as we explore a new neighborhood square each week.

The preliminary election on Sept. 24 winnowed the field of 12 candidates to two, leaving state Rep. Marty Walsh and Boston City Councilor John Connolly vying to replace Menino. WBUR’s complete coverage of the mayoral race can be found here.

Codman Square

“We moved into a beautiful house. We were going to renovate it, sell it, make a killing, move to the suburbs. We ended up falling in love with the neighborhood.”
– Candice Gartley

Dorchester’s Codman Square used to be considered one of the most dangerous areas in Boston. Violence, drugs and prostitution were rampant. There is still work to be done, but with a pivotal health center and the efforts of several community groups, the neighborhood’s diverse residents and merchants are making Codman safer and more prosperous.

Andrew Square

“We would like to see more of the gentrification come to Andrew Square that maybe other parts of South Boston have already seen.”
– Peter Szyjka, business owner

Once an Irish enclave, South Boston has changed dramatically in the last 20 years, with the opening of the Boston Convention Center and the development of the waterfront. But Andrew Square — which sits at the very western edge of the neighborhood — is maybe the part of Southie that has changed the least. Residents there are seeking some of the improvements other parts of their neighborhood have enjoyed, like safer streets and more development.

Dudley Square

“It’s really hard when you work to better your neighborhood and then somebody else comes in and gets to take advantage of that and you have to move to another place that has all the problems that you just spent your time trying to change.”
– Mariama White-Hammond

As development winds around Roxbury’s Dudley Square, people who work and live in the community say they’re concerned about fairness — in city jobs, education and affordable housing.

Copley Square

“I think the Copley hope for the next mayor is that we’ll have a mayor who’s not dividing us but uniting us … to be both pro-business and pro-working class, to be pro our thriving neighborhoods like Copley Square and pro Mattapan, Dorchester, Roxbury.”
– Louise Burnham Packard

Copley Square is an oasis of open space ringed by a bustling hub of dining, retail, business and historic architecture. Still, people who live and work here are looking for a mayor who will help cut down on panhandling and increase litter clean-up. And all the construction on tap has some worried about changes to the skyline.

Maverick Square

“I don’t think things should change. I love my neighborhood. I don’t want anything to come over and dictate [to] us to change anything. I love East Boston and the way it is.”
– Tayler Fernandez

As change drives forward, in the form of planned waterfront development and a proposed casino, many East Boston residents worry that the neighborhood’s long tradition as a gateway to immigrants will end.

Oak Square

“It’s always been a different neighborhood, a younger neighborhood, eclectic neighborhood. I always make a joke that Harvard Ave. was grunge and liberal before Cambridge and JP knew what that meant, and it still remains that way.”
– State Rep. Michael Moran

These days, Allston/Brighton is known for the throngs of students who live there, and for large new developments planned by businesses and surrounding universities. But there are also generations of families who are trying to hold on to their neighborhood.

Downtown Crossing/Chinatown

“The big story here is that this is becoming a residential area. No one in their wildest imagination, 30 years ago, could have thought that it would in fact become what it is today.”
– Emerson College President Lee Pelton

Downtown Crossing is the epicenter of Boston’s social, cultural and commercial history. But it’s seen a series of highs and lows since its heyday. Now, the bustling retail district is becoming more residential, and luxury housing is driving up costs in the neighborhoods that border the district — like Chinatown.

Cleary Square

“Cleary Square is a story of two squares, some parts are doing well, some parts need help. We need help marketing. I think we can have a renaissance like JP had.”
– Boston Mayor Thomas Menino

Thomas Menino is from Hyde Park, but soon the neighborhood (and the city) will have a new mayor. Residents there are looking for the city’s next chief executive to develop Hyde Park’s business district and work on bridging cultural differences.

Mattapan Square

“We don’t want to paint a picture of doom and gloom for Mattapan. When I walk down the street, I see people that are very proud to say they live in Mattapan and that they are from Mattapan.”
– Sharon Callender,
Mattapan Community Health Center

Some Mattapan residents see it as the forgotten neighborhood. But despite violent crime and challenges for its large immigrant populations, it’s home to many optimists.