Fisher College’s Proposed Institutional Master Plan has been a contentious issue for as long as I have been in office. In fact, I attended my first IMP meeting more than two years ago prior to my swearing in as a Representative.
Unfortunately, after the BRA meeting last week, several Fisher officials made comments to reject the opposition as driven by racism or class discrimination and accused residents of “terrorizing” supporters of Fisher by writing them letters. There is no basis for these comments. Senator Brownsberger and Councilor Zakim joined me to urge Fisher to apologize, correct the record, and work on improving its relations with its neighbors prior to proceeding with its IMP request. We also offered to help facilitate the healing process from these damaging statements. Here is a copy of the letter.
Since attending my first Fisher meeting in June 2013, I have worked hard to try to bridge the gap where I thought possible between Fisher College and its neighbors as well as resolve some of the basic quality of life concerns of the neighbors. Working with the neighbors, NABB, and Fisher, we have been able to achieve some success. For instance, Fisher has withdrawn its initial proposal to convert three residential apartment buildings it owns on the south side of Beacon Street to dormitory space and agreed not to expand any more in residential Back Bay.
Fisher also began working with neighbors on issues such as trash, parking, service vehicles, and other impacts of having students on a residential block. I am pleased that since January, the City of Boston has convened working meetings with neighbors and Fisher to find ways to resolve these issues.
Earlier this spring, Fisher announced that it would file its IMP “shortly.” I spoke out against that plan, arguing that the IMP process would be less contentious when more agreements were reached by the working group, as the outstanding issues would narrow. Many other voices made the same logical point. Fisher agreed and the City and the working group started meeting weekly.
In May, Fisher filed its revised Institutional Master Plan. While it is improved from the original plan, it still calls for an increase in students on Beacon Street and forty-eight additional dorm beds on the north side of Beacon Street. The filing was made prior to the working group finishing its work too.
On June 22, the BRA convened a public meeting regarding the new plan. Around 100 residents of Back Bay, most from the immediate area around Fisher, came and stood in strong opposition to Fisher’s plan, particularly its student expansion plans. Councilor Josh Zakim and I also joined in the opposition and each of us pointed out that Fisher should not be allowed to expand, particularly in light of the current circumstances. That remains my position.
I will continue to work with NABB, Fisher, and its neighbors to try to minimize the impact of the college on the residential block. In the meantime, if you have thoughts on Fisher College’s IMP, the deadline for comments to the BRA is July 13, 2015 . Comments should be submitted to Katelyn Sullivan, Project Manager, Boston Redevelopment Authority, One City Hall Square, Boston, MA 02201 or at Katelyn.Sullivan@boston.gov.