Boston’s environment/energy chief Austin Blackmon and two dozen guests toured the Talbot-Norfolk Triangle (TNT) Eco-Innovation District on April 3, 2015 and saw a neighborhood that is using climate tools to create community stability and good jobs. The tour was organized by the Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation (NDC), Talbot Norfolk Triangle Neighbors United, and Greenovate Boston’s Neighborhoods Committee, which BostonCAN chairs.
TNT residents are confronting displacement, rising rents, and scarce jobs. In response, some are starting to save money by retrofitting their homes; planning energy-efficient, affordable housing; creating community gardens, playgrounds, an urban agriculture site; and checking out community solar installations to keep money and generate power in their neighborhood.
A recent study by Boston University and the NDC found that the TNT and surrounding area is under growing pressure from Boston’s voracious real estate industry. Families, there since the 1980s and linked by family and neighborhood ties, are hitting retirement age. The scarcity of good jobs makes it hard for children and neighbors to buy them out. Suburban realtors are moving in and offering cash for homes. Absentee owners and foreclosure speculators are raising rents to levels people can’t afford. With South Station now 12 minutes away on the new Talbot Ave stop that the community fought for on the Fairmount commuter rail, TNT’s residents could rapidly be priced out of their neighborhood.
The NDC, on the tour, framed its Eco-Innovation efforts as part of its community stabilization strategy. The need for money-saving energy efficiency and housing rehab, along with good green job training and jobs, became more and more obvious as we traveled down New England Avenue with its vacant lots lining the train tracks. Residents insisted that 19 new housing units Codman Square NDC looks to develop on those lots include houses and condos people can afford to buy, not just rent. The NDC is looking for job-generating businesses to be located in a Job Hub on New England Ave in TNT so residents can be employed and afford to live on the street. The neighborhood is seeking stability but it’s developing resiliency, the capacity to shape its future in the face of runaway markets and climate.
We invited community development corporations to tour TNT, hoping they’d pick up on this pioneering project and talk about similar work they’re doing. CSNDC is forging an intra-cultural relationship with the Asian CDC around growing culturally appropriate produce for Chinatown restaurateurs at its urban agriculture site. We invited City staff to see how neighborhoods can lead climate work. The NDC was delighted that Austin Blackmon, Boston’s new environment chief, came. The Talbot-Norfolk Triangle is a great place to show that climate work moves forward when the initiative comes from the bottom up.
For more information on Greenovate Boston’s Neighborhoods Committee contact Mike Prokosch at firstname.lastname@example.org and for more information on the TNT Eco-Innovation District contact Dave Queeley at email@example.com.