Black Perspectives; Beverly Johnson
Good evening welcome to black perspectives that have our feature focusing on issues information and lifestyles in the communities of Boston the south shore. I'm your host fell apart. The focus of tonight's topic on black perspectives is development in the black community with my guest Beverly Johnson special assistant to the director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority and Beverly welcome to black perspectives. Thank you I'm glad to be here. Now tell me how does one end up being a special assistant to Steve Coyle. I would have been in a very roundabout way. I worked for Steven at the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington when he was a special assistant to Patricia Roberts Harris. And. After he left and decided to go to law school and then by way of San Francisco came back to Boston I decided to recruit me and came to Washington specifically to do that for about a year or two and finally talked me into coming up here and and
taking a chance on this job. Were you still hurt at the time. I was still with her at the time working in the office of public housing writing policies for the public housing management program so a kind of education and training to do you know I have an undergraduate degree in marketing from the University of Maryland College Park. Are you from the Maryland to D.C. I grew up in Maryland and I was a career employee at HUD. Actually right out of high school and worked my way up through the ranks to a professional position which is what I was in when I decided to come here to Boston. So having been involved in the public sector for at least the 10 year period prior to coming here my feet were pretty wet and I was you know pretty pretty ready to step into the shoes of working on public policy issues for Steven Coelho to be orange. I've been with the BRT since September of 87.
So what does your job consist of I'm a special assistant who's kind of a jack of all trades for certain right and specifically my most important responsibility is to coordinate all of the major projects that are on the direction of Tony Williams in the office of Neighborhood Housing and Development. I'm responsible for making sure that the community benefits package for the parcel 18 project comes together on a timely basis. I'm also the project manager for the parcel P3 project which right now is in the very early planning stages as many people might know the parcel P3 project will consist of a linkage to help. Generate monies for cultural facilities that are owned by the National Center of Afro-American artists specifically the NC Triple A has already been designated as a cul developer for P3 and once
we find another developer to link with them then those monies would be used to renovate the Museum of the National Center and reopen the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts. Additionally we are hopeful that we can get a performing arts center built right adjacent to the almost Emma Lewis School of Fine Arts and reopen the playhouse in Franklin Park which Miss Lewis ran for a number of years or so. So those are the two major projects that I'm responsible for overseeing and coordinating. You know I was told our audience a little bit were P3 as I think many people are familiar with where a parcel 18 is with the Ruggles Street Station worst P3 relative to parcel it in P3 is located located directly across the street from parcel 18. Many people might know of Connelly's tavern. Everybody knows OK we represent as a community. One of the boundaries of P3. The other boundary being the Hubert Humphrey
occupational Resource Center which is located there also those college going to Toronto. We're not exactly sure what will happen with Conley's but in the event that it is torn down the plan is to either find them some space. In another location or provide space for them in the development project. Mary might have a new improved families. That's right yes. Now I understand P3 is in its early stages but what is and vision for peace re-uses office space retail space with what might be a P3. We've been looking at a number of scenarios and the most recent one has been that P-3 would have a mixed use development that would consist of office space perhaps for some biomedical research facilities or thereabouts from
abominable because you know statistics and and reviews have indicated to us that biomedical research is definitely. One area that will be increasing significantly in the future in terms of employment opportunities and the demand for the types of. Research that they do still that's a possibility that the possibility of like the Longwood area right institutions right. And if we did something along that order then we would also mix in some retail and commercial spaces on the ground floor and have some level of parking perhaps to accommodate customers but to a certain extent perhaps to accommodate other needs for parking in the areas such as for Northeastern University students. So now biomedical I guess is still a possibility for us all 18 also. Right I mean it's something that can't be ruled out I would. I was I don't think it should be ruled out. But right now
I don't know if it's at the top of the list for for the different possibilities that we're looking for for parcel 18. Now with the National Center on P3 being a co-developer is this going to be a model of development somewhat of what we see with partially Tina Kingston Bedford with the minority quote unquote married to a majority developer. I think you could definitely say it is a model and in this instance we like to say it's a very unique and creative model because this is the first time that a culture of cultural facility will be linked with a major developer without having any of those cultural facilities actually built on the parcel that the money will be generating from it is more likely the majority or whoever the other co developer is will be the managing partners and national so that it's more likely you are not a developer. They're not a developer and the plan as we see it is that the man at the National Center
would get a percentage of the revenues that we generate from the development of the project. So there would be some of the 18 in a sense or you know write out some proportion of their operating income and that's right sort of the first fees and the right of a certain percentage of the monies would be used initially as upfront fee money to get the renovation and expansion program started. And we're hopeful that after that the future revenues generating from the the P3 project would be used to defray operating expenses for the national center to service and endowment. Now both of these parcel 18N P3 obviously or are unique and there are both depend on the continuing strong real estate market. Taking the worst case scenario what happens to those projects if the real estate market bottoms out or or cools down considerably. Can we can we expect to see
the same kind of spinoffs that come from these projects or we have to restructure them to some extent. I would think that if the market conditions would continue to decline then we would have to. Definitely be definitely be a little more cautious about. Initiating any sort of projects like this in the future but our feeling is that the momentum that is generating from the development of parcel 18 and the upcoming development of parcel P3 will at a minimum see the completion of those projects happen and we're hopeful that it will also serve to generate momentum that will go over into the Dudley Square area. I don't know if I have sufficiently answered your question but I can only say that if market conditions declined then we would have to definitely look at our strategy and approach for similar projects like this in the
future. The reason I asked I know you can also answer for and I know you're not. Project Manager for the second part of the parcel language right program but we've already heard rumblings I guess you could say that the Park Square part of the second pars of the Pars the linkage may not be able to throw off the funds a sufficient to create the transitional housing project in the south end. And that project is second in line to the initial parcel parcel linking so I guess in both instances all three instances that we're talking about the Park Square South in parcel 18 Kingston Bedford the P3 their unique projects. We can't necessarily look at too many models around the country to tell us exactly how they're going to work right. They're risky obviously and I commend the B R E for and the community for entering into this kind of risk but they
are dependent upon the market being of a certain level of strength in order for them to succeed. And I hope the market does remain strong with it. But you know we do have to consider if the market weakens then what are what are what are alternatives for these projects that are already on the drawing board much less you know new ones that may come along. My feeling is that with the strong commitment that the city administration has made specifically for the three projects that we've been discussing. I feel pretty confident that there is enough subsidy money available that's out there that we could use creatively to help these projects get to the point of completion. Now what happens after that after these projects are completed. Is a big question that I think would stay up in the air. But there is definitely a strong commitment on the part of the Boston Redevelopment Authority
and the city to follow through on the commitments for these major projects to make sure that they happen and to show people here and across the country that. It can happen. You know you might have to scramble around and and rethink your you know dollar strategy and get a little more creative. But we're committed to seeing all three of them happen very quickly. Obviously a lot of political capital has been invested and personal 18 and to a lesser extent maybe P3 and to a lesser extent parks were a softened project but those are things we have to consider I mean the city is having some fiscal problems the states are having some fiscal problems. So any time you're a developer or a public. A servant working in the area development you're dealing with risk and making adjustments. That's right. Now how many special systems has worked for Steve Cohen How many people have a title of special assistant.
Right now there are two special assistants and one executive assistant. There are a number of other people on the staff who do more administrative type work. But they're basically two special assistants and one executive. So what you said earlier the special system you have a slot you're assigned to specific projects and you I guess kind of are a liaison in this instance between top executives and Steve Cohen. That's right all of us are responsible for a combination of program magic and administrative responsibilities. For instance in addition to the responsibilities as coordinator for in HD I'm also responsible for seeing that a number of administrative functions directly and in Steven Coyle's office are handled on a day to day basis so I serve more as the operations officer within the department within his office. We are also responsible for making sure that any public policy statements that generate from any of the program offices
are complete and accurate in what in that they reflect the views of the city administration and the VRA specifically. OK we're going to take a brief pause here for this public service announcement here on WM BFM ninety one point nine on your listening dial. I'll be returning to our topic of discussion focusing on the issue of development in the black community with my guest Beverly Johnson special assistant to the director with the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Try something pleasantly different storage space related facts and more started can be heard daily at 8:10 a.m. at 8 10 p.m. and weekends on WM BFM in Boston. Back from a brief intermission I'm your host Philip Hart in tonight's edition of black perspectives we're focusing on the issue of development in the black community with my guest Beverly Johnson special assistant to Steve Coyle with the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Now Beverly in all the projects that we've talked about in the first hour of the program obviously
one important element is citizen participation or community participation. From your vantage point as an employee with the Boston Redevelopment Authority and you talk a little bit about community participation or the value of community participation from the standpoint of of helping the development process itself move forward. We we being the B ARE A and I think I could speak for the city. Look at the whole community development. It's a patient process as a very very important step in caring in any development project through to fruition. Our position is that any development project that will be built in a neighborhood where people are living should have the input and voice of the people in all phases of processing that project through the the city bureaucracy to support that position we ensure that the community residents are
involved in terms of reviewing the design of the project and also in terms of sitting down with the developer to find out what kind of impacts the project will have environmentally and financially on the community. Immediate most immediate. In location to it. So we have a very very strong commitment to involving residents in all aspects of development. People need to feel as if they are they need to bring a certain level of expertise in order to participate as citizens. Well it certainly helps if there is a level of expertise because that makes the whole communication process between the city and the community much easier to deal with. But our commitment is that anyone who is concerned about what's going on all will be going on in their community definitely has the right to participate in any meetings any public meetings that we
hold. And if. An individual or group of individuals are not really totally in understanding of what's going on then we have a responsibility to communicate enough well enough in layman's terms for them to understand all of the technical aspects of putting a development project together. So generally there you're talking about people attending community meetings where there might be public officials like yourself architects and writers developers. That's right. And at each stage in the process we're responsible for going out into the community and explaining what's happening giving them an opportunity to voice their opinion about whether or not they think the development will have a positive impact on their community and if they think it doesn't they have an opportunity to suggest make recommendations to us on how they think we should change it in order that it does have a positive impact.
Now one thing obviously the developers often complain about is that the community participation process slows them down. If you have a conflict so hypothetically between a developer and a community what does A B or a play a mediating role what kind of role does A B or E play in an instance. I if there was a conflict between a developer and neighborhood residents. We along with the Office of Neighborhood Services like to try an into mediate and bring the two groups together and find out exactly exactly what problems are are causing the conflict and our commitment is to. Mediate as long as it takes for their problem to be resolved. We're not really willing to go forth with any type of approval on a development project. If there is strong community opposition it's our feeling that it's best to delay the
process as long as it takes to get their community opposition resolved before we go on. Because if you don't what happens is down the road it becomes a much more. Politically volatile situation. If a developer goes into a neighborhood and pretty much decides what he or she wants to do and ignores the community's needs. You know at some point it would become here at my new center and it would still be stalled the project would not go anywhere. Another way that people can. Become more informed or participate is attending a board meeting. That's right those are public meetings those are Perini early afternoon. Every other Thursday either Thursday or yes we will hold them twice a month. Usually the second. I'm sorry the first and third Thursday of the month except for the summer months of June and July and August we usually only have one meeting during those time periods and we invite
people to come in and listen to the issues that are being discussed. It's a great way to learn the development process and it's a great way to learn how the BRM functions and how we set our policy. How many people on the bee or a board we have. Six members on the BRT board. And the directors kind of there are ex-officio are advisory. That's right capacity that's right. And generally you have a fairly substantial agenda each with you to the meetings. That's right we cover a very wide range of issues in most of the meetings development and impact statements have to be approved. We have to give recommendations on zoning board of Appeal requests. We have to give approval for final and tentative designation of developers and the nothing can happen in the BRC without the approval of the board. They said all of
our policy and they approve all administrative functions including personnel. So in your job who are Imagine you have a lot of interaction with other. Agencies like the zoning board public facilities office of Neighborhood Services in terms of what you do well most specifically the liaison work that's involved with dealing with the other city agency mainly happens at the program level. However certainly when there is some kind of policy decision that has to be made there are instances when I would work with the Office of Neighborhood Services and the public facilities department. Now you as my audience may be able to surmise or a black female. Is it unusual to find someone like you in the position or are we going to be saying more access for black women in major
public sector roles like like the one you're playing here in Boston. I would like to think that we will see a much larger percentage of black and other minority women in positions like mine. I know that the city and I can speak specifically for my boss Stephen Coyle has a very strong commitment to increase the percentage of minorities that are working at the BRACA. He's very very concerned that the representation of all people is reflected in his office staff. And my sense is that that commitment also comes from from the mayor's office. There are many many opportunities here from what I can see in the year and a half that I've been here. I think that it's just a matter of being very very. Determined and very aggressive and just trying to get some type of contact with people who. Are in a position to tell you what
steps you need to take to get there are people such as myself I'm always open to having people call me and. And if there are any questions about how to get through the bureaucracy or how to talk to people about various jobs that are available then I'm very happy to do that. And recently of course we've seen Mayor Ray Flynn appoint Consuela for Nell Spann a. Woman to the board of the BEA. We've seen him elevate Clarence Jones to the chairman of the board to be obviously signaling a commitment to those communities in terms of participation because it's right I think many people particularly those in the development arena whether housing or commercial biar is probably the most important agency. For them in the city. That's right. And we're seeing more and more minority developers emerge doing various kinds of projects in the city.
That's right again. Stephen Cornell has a very very strong commitment that. All people in the city no matter what their color be involved in the the economic boom that has been taking place in the city certainly before I got here. I think Israel is 1983 and for there's a concern that neighborhoods in general and different people representing different races and economic levels specifically get a piece of the rock that's coming from the development boom that has been going on in Boston over the last five six years now has been a lot of speculation in the press recently about Steve possibly leaving if you lose do you follow or do you stay here or is he leaving. What do you feel about that question. If he says I will definitely stay in Boston I
I like it here. I think the employment opportunities are great. I will defer on answering those other questions. But at least we know you'll stay. I will be there whether you leaves or whether he goes you know Beverly Johnson will be here. Beverly Johnson will be here working in some aspect of development. Now do you work a 70 hour week. Sometimes. Sometimes we put in very long hours there. A lot of people think that it's because my boss is just a very strict taskmaster but he's a workaholic. He he does like to work I will admit that the people who work for him also have to have a commitment to what they're doing and to putting in the time that's required a lot of the hours that we put in. Results from the community meetings that we are we have to attend especially with parcel 18. Right
now we're having on the average of two to three evening meetings and. To the three afternoon meetings a week. And sometimes that spills over into the weekend so all and all the staff has been putting in some very very long hours but we're very pleased with the progress is being made on a parcel 18 and where we're anticipating and very very happy about the fact that pretty soon this project will be breaking ground. Now if you think of yourself personally independent of your employer I want to be. Where you like to be in five or 10 years from now. Five or ten years from now. Good question. I really feel myself becoming much more interested in. The marketing aspects of development. The interchange that takes place between the community and developers and I could very well see myself fitting into the role of being an intermediary
between the community and developers and developers and the city government. Since I do have a strong background in public sector employment you see yourself remaining in the public sector or maybe going into the private sector. I really think at this point in my career that. I would if if there is a possibility of doing a little of both and I know that might sound crazy. That's what I would like to do. I've got a strong commitment to just helping people which I think can mainly happen through the public sector but I'm also much more interested in the energy and and time and optimism that goes into running a private business. So I I think I would always be involved in both in some capacity. OK well we have about a minute left. Final comment you want to leave our audience with just the fact that I think what's happening right now in the Roxbury Community is very very exciting
for myself as a city employee and I think for the citizens of Roxbury the upcoming parcel 18 and parcel P3 projects are just two of many many things that are happening along the southwest corridor. There's parcel 22 which also is in the very very early planning stages. There is the post office the new post office time which is in the early design stages and the BRACA just feels very very excited about making sure that the Roxbury Community and other communities in Boston benefit from the economic wealth that's generating from development. OK. Thank you Beverly. Thank you very much. You're welcome tonight you've been listening to black perspectives I want to thank my guest Beverly Johnson special assistant to the director of the Boston Redevelopment already for contributing to the night's topic which delves into development in the black community. Special thanks to Tanya Warren for technical assistance and a good producer of black perspectives.
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- Beverly Johnson, special assistant to the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) Director Stephen Coyle, talks about development in Roxbury with host Philip Hart. Topics include Johnson's prior experience at the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in and recruitment by Coyle, development plans for Roxbury's Parcels 3 and 18, the impact of a potential economic recession on current development, the value of community participation in the development process, the BRA's role in developer-resident conflicts, the public nature of BRA board meetings, staff diversity at the BRA, the rumor of Coyle's pending departure and Johnson's future at the BRA and beyond.
- Black Perspectives is a public affairs talk show featuring in depth conversations about issues of interest to the African American community.
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Copyright Holder: WUMB-FM
Host: Hart, Philip
Producer: Pierre Louis, Gary
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- Chicago: “Black Perspectives; Beverly Johnson,” 1989-05-17, WUMB, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 27, 2020, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-345-547pvsfn.
- MLA: “Black Perspectives; Beverly Johnson.” 1989-05-17. WUMB, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 27, 2020. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-345-547pvsfn>.
- APA: Black Perspectives; Beverly Johnson. Boston, MA: WUMB, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-345-547pvsfn