West End

West End residents struggle to raise neighborhood’s profile
By Vivienne Belmont

A new West End emerges

In 1999, Rappaport sold his Charles River Park properties.

At the time, a group of concerned residents formed the Civic Association to protect the neighborhood and voted to use the West End for its name, said Thomas.

“Everybody knows the West End,” Thomas said. “And there’s no reason to change the name.”

Charles River Park today is largely made up of professional, college-educated adults, according to the 2000 census data. Less than half the population is families and at least a third are single. The majority of the units are rentals. Some subsidized units and have been built into the park, so a small number of low-to moderate-income residents live there. A building for retired people was also built in the 1970s, so there is a significant population of older people too.

Carol Macleod who lives in Whittier Place, one of the condominiums in Charles River Park, said she loves living here because she likes to go for long walks along the river bank.

Macleod said that although the area has a number of young children, couples with school-aged children tend to move to the suburbs because public schools are non-existent in the neighborhood and surrounding areas.

One challenge that the Civic Association faces is that the neighbors do not have a strong showing in local elections. Another challenge the Civic Association is particularly concerned with is the growth of the neighborhood.

When Rappaport owned Charles River Park, he did not allow anything new to be built beyond the area he and the city agreed on in 1957, Thomas said. But now a number of different companies own property, and Mayor Menino wants more housing to be built throughout the city, so plans are being drawn up for new buildings to fill in some of the open space, Thomas said.

Although critics describe Charles River Park as a cold, sterile environment that doesn’t fit in with the rest of Boston, residents who live there like the open space.

“We kind of feel they’re running roughshod over the West End again.”
– Louise Thomas

Equity Residential, a Chicago-based rental company that owns the Longfellow and the Emerson apartment buildings in Charles River Park, has plans to put up new buildings. One of them would block the Emerson’s view of the Charles, Thomas said.

The Equity building is planned to be 16 stories, but the Civic Association does not want any new buildings higher than eight stories and no secondary buildings higher than the tree line to be built in the park, said Paul Schratter, a resident and member of the Civic Association. But Equity has the support of the mayor and the BRA, Thomas said.

This time, however, as a new generation of West End neighbors prepare to fight for their neighborhood against the designs of development companies and city planners, they have a strong community group prepared to stand up to City Hall.

“We kind of feel they’re running roughshod over the West End again,” Thomas said.

The BRA did not return messages left in person at their office and were not available for comment.

Whether or not history will repeat itself remains to be seen.

Inside this story:

West End Home
1. A Historic Past
2. Old Loyalties Survive
3. A New West End Emerges

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Old West End
New West End

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