The momentum in other cities, according to the New York Times, is in the direction that Detroit has taken-zoning “adult uses” so that they are kept away from each other and spread all over the city, rather than clustered together as in Boston. This approach avoids the so-called “skid row” effect, but many argue it would be impractical in a city as small and residential as Boston.
John Sloan, pointing out that his own City Hall office sits in the middle of what used to be Scollay Square, reminds us that tearing own buildings doesn’t solve social problems. And he complains that now there is no policy at all with regard to adult entertainment.
Officially, the BRA is now “rethinking” the issue. New BRA director Robert Walsh, not saddled with this predecessor’s commitment to the present zoning plan, says it has proved detrimental to retail values downtown, and that the stepped-up action by regulatory agencies “has really caused the Zone to become dormant.”
On the other hand, he says that the Zone is, or has been, a boon for tourism-“It’s almost part of the Freedom Trail for conventioneers” – and that to a large extent the “containment” envisioned by the zoning amendment has succeeded.
We’re considering some alternatives,” Walsh said. “Possibly to compress it or shrink it in its present location, or to design better facades to make it more subtle. And we’re looking at various concepts being tied in other cities throughout the country.”
One just hopes the BRA is not looking for leadership from any of those cities which, two-and-a-half years ago, were looking to show Boston the way.