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In Dot, Mattapan, Wu’s $3.6B capital budget targets projects; schools in line for funding

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu speaks to reporters at a press conference in January. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu speaks to reporters at a press conference in January. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Mayor Michelle Wu’s $3.6 billion capital budget includes 400 projects to be started or completed over the next five years, with 34 identified for Dorchester and 12 specifically for Mattapan.

Highlights in Dorchester include some $4 million recommended for the Boston Centers for Youth and Families to design a new neighborhood community center based on a recent programming study and a series of public meetings. A proposed facilities assessment study for BCYF centers is a separate $500,000 budget item.

Schools are scheduled for infusions of funding:

A new K-6 school in Dorchester is on the menu, with $150,000 proposed to design a “building program” for an elementary school.

Improvements make the list, including a still-to-be-scheduled $200,000 study at the Dever and McCormack Schools on Columbia Point “to determine outdoor improvements.” Interior changes to the McCormack School – converting to a 7-12 grade facility – are under construction with an allocation of $3 million.

The CASH and Winthrop schools are in line for roof repairs, with $2.15 million proposed for CASH School work and $1.7 million asked for replacing the roof at the Winthrop School. And a plumbing overhaul at the Holmes School is earmarked for $288,000. And about $10 million is set aside toward new school bathrooms and upgrades to existing fixtures.

Upgrades to the Mattahunt Elementary School, still to be scheduled, would total some $3.6 million. This budget cycle includes a new $492,000 project to replace the school’s air handling unit.

In other areas, Norwell Street Square is in line for a $140,000 project that would develop a “dead-end section of Park Street into a plaza in conjunction with the development of a park in the adjacent lots.”

As for cross-neighborhood and citywide projects, the Blue Hill Avenue Multimodal Corridor carries a proposed $39 million price tag across five years. The project is described in the budget as “the creation of center-running dedicated bus lanes, redesigned Mattapan Square for improved bus connection to the MBTA station, protected bike lanes, signal changes, and sidewalks.”

A $250,000 study for improvements to JFK/UMass station is still to be scheduled, according to the budget data. It would assess areas for improvements to the site and “create a transportation action plan” for the area.

Other projects are still in the pipeline, with their funding initially approved in earlier budget cycles.

The budget includes $250,000 for a “study to assess the capital needs at the Strand Theatre.” While the city resubmitted Requests for Proposals for Uphams Corner buildings earlier this year in line with an arts district revitalization plan, the Strand’s operation has been cordoned off for now. The study is still to be scheduled, according to the city’s data portal of all budget proposals.

Existing studies are underway at three new library sites, including the new $18 million Uphams Corner library and the $21 million Fields Corner library. Further south, the $18.3 million Adams Street library renovation is still ongoing. The budget allocates an additional $3 million to the design and construction of a new branch library in Codman Square, for which a $100,000 study is already in progress.

A Mattapan item approved last year would set aside $250,000 to “fabricate and install a bronze sculpture of books for the entrance of the Mattapan Branch Library.”

Along with Byrne Park, projects abound, many of them multi-year renovations.

Mattapan’s $870,000 Walker Playground play lot upgrade is under construction, as is the $5.4 million Garvey Playground renovation, the $7.8 million McConnell Park renovation, and the $1.2 million Doherty-Gibson Playground rehab.

The budget also proposes $400,000 for rehabbing the Byrne Playground in Dorchester, “including play lots, courts, and passive areas.”

Other park and open space projects are in design, such as the $1.5 park improvement to Coppens Square that will include replacing the Mayor Theodore Lyman fountain that was removed in 1951.

The Odom Serenity Garden, near the border of Dorchester and Mattapan, is still slated for $550,000 and is in design. Also in design – Codman Square Park, which is budgeted for $1.8 million, and the $1.6 million improvements to Mother’s Rest at Four Corners park and play areas.

The Parks Department’s $1.82 million plan to repave existing Dorchester Park walkways is “to be scheduled,” according to the data portal.

The budget continues funding for annual environmental programs like the $750,000 Mattahunt Woods preservation and $2 million Urban Wilds citywide project. Another $350,000 is proposed to develop an Urban Wilds conservation and land management plan.

Wu's $3.99 billion operating budget, which covers day-to-day exposes rather than particular projects, also includes funding for initiatives like affordable homeownership.

The City Council holds hearings on parts of the budget between April and June, before taking action on the document in early June, with the mayor’s final approval expected in late June.

Unlike prior years when city councilors were limited to up or down votes on both the general and school budgets, this year could see more back and forth between councilors and the mayor. A ballot measure approved by voters last November changed the city’s charter to give the councilors power to adjust or overrule the mayor’s budget, with some limitations.

In the background of the normal budget process looms the substantial remainder of some $560 million in American Rescue Plan Act Funds. For that pot of money, Mayor Wu has previewed some major investments in affordable housing, launched a free bus pilot program on three key Boston bus routes, and teased tailored programs like a three-decker energy retrofit program expected to be fleshed out in the coming weeks.

This story was originally published by The Dorchester Reporter.

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