Charlestown, Boston's oldest neighborhood, is undergoing a transformative period as it steps into the development spotlight. The recent adoption of PLAN: Charlestown by the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) marks a significant milestone after four years of planning. This comprehensive guide has unlocked the potential for economic development and housing production in Charlestown, paving the way for substantial changes in the historically industrial neighborhood.

Challenges and Controversies

Despite the positive outlook, the planning guide has not been without its challenges. High-profile opposition, particularly from the city councilor representing Charlestown, underscores concerns about potential impacts on the neighborhood's historic charm. Residents worry that increased density and height might strain the area and that reliance on the MBTA's transportation system could exacerbate existing issues.

City Councilor Gabriela Coletta, a vocal critic of the plan, expressed concerns about the BPDA's vision potentially transforming Charlestown into a replica of the Seaport. Opposition from the Charlestown Neighborhood Council, citing a lack of community engagement, adds another layer of complexity to the ongoing debate.

The Planning Guide and Community Vision

PLAN: Charlestown is part of the city's broader efforts to enhance transparency in the planning process. Stemming from former Mayor Marty Walsh's Imagine Boston 2030 initiative, Charlestown was identified as a neighborhood with immense growth potential. The new plan addresses sustainability, affordable housing, and open space expansion, reflecting a balance between city goals and community needs.

Developments Leading the Change

Several major projects are already underway, signaling Charlestown's shift towards a mixed-use hub. Catamount Management Corp.'s Hook Park project, which began in 2018, has been a catalyst for change, revitalizing a former dairy manufacturing complex into a vibrant mixed-use campus. Similarly, Rise's 40 Roland St. project aligns with the new planning guide, exemplifying the positive impact envisioned by the community.

The Rise project, part of a broader Sullivan Square redevelopment initiative, includes lab and office space, residential units, and retail space. Despite pushback, Rise's co-founder, Herby Duverné, is optimistic about the project's alignment with the community's vision, emphasizing its contribution to transit-oriented economic growth.

Community Responses and Partnerships

While some community groups and officials oppose the developments, others, like the Charlestown Resident Alliance, express support. The alliance's partnership with Leggat McCall on the Bunker Hill housing development highlights a diverse range of perspectives within Charlestown. Developers argue that these plans address pressing issues such as the housing crisis and the need for job opportunities.


Charlestown's journey towards development is a nuanced and ongoing process. The clash between preserving historic charm and embracing growth reflects the delicate balance cities often face. As Charlestown navigates these changes, it stands at the intersection of history and progress, with the hope that thoughtful development will enrich the community's future without compromising its unique identity.

Posted by Ryan Drowne on
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