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Cleaning up Blue Hill Ave., block by block

Sandra Larson | 8/8/2012, 9:59 a.m.
Darryl Smith (L) and the Blue Hill Avenue Neighborhood Response Team in front of Blue Hill Liquors. The store has been sold to new owners and is now being renovated. Sandra Larson

When crime is down and people are receiving the treatment and help they need, the focus can shift to economic development—making the neighborhood thrive again.

“The challenge before us is what do people want Blue Hill Avenue to be?” said Kozu. “It’s easy to go after the problem, but what should go in its place is less clear. And when we do get good businesses, what can we do to support them?”

One immediate target for economic development is Blue Hill Avenue’s many vacant lots. The NRT wants to transform these symbols of blight into sites of productivity. They have pressured owners to clean up and maintain their lots; the BRA and DND are working to identify city-owned lots that could become sites for an entrepreneur’s business.

On the May 2 walk, experts from the Sustainability Guild and the Community Design Resource Center of Boston came along to start imagining creative uses for green spaces even before they are business ready.

In the last minutes of the Haynes Center meeting, attendees were asked what businesses they would like to see along the Avenue. Ideas ranged widely: a florist, a dentist, an office supply store, professional offices, a karate studio, an ice cream parlor, a Midas muffler shop, a bookstore and a fish market.

The discussion brought a surge of hope into the room despite the fresh list of concerns about trash, violence and prostitution.

The challenges are many for the NRT and the Blue Hill Avenue community in making and keeping the area a safe, clean, thriving neighborhood. The good news for them is that Menino gave no sign of cutting back on support for the NRT. Neighborhood improvement programs that are working are always sustainable, he said.

“We’ve made a lot of progress,” Menino said, referring not just to the NRT efforts, but also to other improvement programs over his long tenure. “One thing that stopped us in the past five years was the economy. But we’re gearing up again. We’re not going to be deterred on Blue Hill Avenue. We’re going to continue to invest, continue to upgrade it.”