Town Hosts Online Visioning Workshop for Future of Winthrop

On Saturday, May 30, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), the Town of Winthrop and the Win 2030 steering committee presented a live, interactive Zoom meeting regarding Winthrop’s short- and long-term goals.

A total of 50 people attended the meeting, including presenters, residents, department heads, and members of the Town Council.

Town Manager Austin Faison said the purpose of the meeting was to create a visioning document and eventually a master plan for Winthrop that will inform rezoning efforts.

“You want to have a plan of “how you want the community to look and feel in the future,” he said.

The presentation explored current and projected trends for Winthrop in eight key areas: housing; jobs and economic development; transportation; open space and recreation; schools and education; facilities and energy use; climate change and resilience; and operational service delivery.

After each topic was presented, attendees were asked to participate in an online poll through the Zoom platform. Their responses provided a road map for how Town planners should proceed in each of the eight categories.

Housing

In the short term, 70 percent of residents want a mixed-use redevelopment strategy for upper-story residential options.

Jobs and Economic Development

Participants want to prioritize transformative redevelopment projects in the CBD in the short term, followed by encouraging mixed-use and commercial property redevelopment.

Transportation

Residents believed that enhancing bus service to the MBTA Blue Line should take precedent in both the short and long term. Regarding the redevelopment of the former middle school site, 50 percent of respondents want to redevelop classrooms and the auditorium, while 42 percent want to see a redevelopment of the entire site.

Julia Wallerce, Chair of the Winthrop Transportation Advisory Committee (WTAC), responded to the poll results in the chat feature of the meeting.

“Great to see so much enthusiasm for improving MBTA bus service!” she wrote. “The committee has been working on this through the MBTA’s Better Bus Project.”

Open Space and Recreation

Eighty-two percent of participants said the Town should prioritize addressing potential flooding of parks by making sure open spaces are resilient. In the short term, 32 percent want community gardens to be the focus of enhancing outdoor space, more so than the dog park or playing fields.

Schools and Education

Sixty-seven percent of respondents said that increasing teacher pay to compete with nearby communities and improving education should be the top priorities. The presentation showed that educational attainment levels in Winthrop are slightly lower than the state average
.

Facilities and Energy Use

In order to reduce energy usage and carbon emissions, more residents believed the Town should prioritize increasing access to renewable energy for residents and businesses.

Climate Change and Resilience

Sixty-seven percent of poll participants said they believed that flooding issues in Winthrop are “very urgent.” In terms of flood risk reduction strategies, 83 percent of respondents would like to see infrastructure improvements such as living shorelines and seawalls. Seventy-three percent said the Town should prioritize policy and planning approaches such as zoning updates and a resiliency checklist.

“Rain gardens and permeable pavement would be so helpful for the CBD, which suffers from flooding and lots of groundwater,” responded WTAC Chair Wallerce. “I hope we can incorporate these features into the surface design once the below grade infrastructure is completed.
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Operational Service Delivery

Poll respondents said that energy cost reduction through weatherization and HVAC upgrades should take priority over other concerns such as a website overhaul and increased ferry service. However, in the long term, residents wanted to see increased ferry service for commuters.

Following the presentation, participants were split into breakout groups to discuss the topics in greater detail and to brainstorm ideas for next steps. These smaller discussions provided researchers with insights into what community members value when it comes to establishing goals.

The May 30 presentation is the first in a two-part visioning process. There will be an online open house available through June where residents can provide more detailed feedback.

For residents that were unable to attend the live meeting, a recorded version will also be available online at mapc.ma/winthrop2030.

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