Extensions & Expansions


Steve Eliopoulos for Tufts University

As local lore has it, when a relative asked Charles Tufts what he would do with his land, and more specifically with “that bleak hill over in Medford,” Tufts replied, “I will put a light on it.”

The Universalist Church founded Tufts University in the 1840s with a gift of 20 acres of land from Boston businessman Charles Tufts. Tufts’ land was located on one of the highest hills in the Boston area, Walnut Hill, between Medford and Somerville, Massachusetts. This land was once inhabited by Native Americans from the Wampanoag tribes, and later the Ten Hills Farm, a slave plantation owned by Isaac Royall, whose house and slave quarters remains preserved a few blocks away in Medford. Charles Tufts’ family also owned African slaves until the late 1700s, allowing for the family to become wealthy and donate land for our university. The land that Native Americans were shoved away from, and the land that slaves were shackled into, became our school. On top of a hill, rising above nearby homes, complete with a church for worship and conversion, similar to earlier (PuritanSpanish) colonial towns. The powers, identities, and ideologies at the time surely left their mark on our school’s physical environment. Indeed, the ivory tower had been erected, and to this day, our campus retains a state of privileged seclusion from the facts and practicalities of the real world. And it truly is a micro-state, complete with its own land, laws, administration, police, revenue, and population.

In Mexico City, the Spanish built their town literally on top of the Aztec Empire, and topped it off with a grand church (built with stones from destroyed Aztec temples) in order to not only physically conquer, but spiritually conquer the indigenous (and slaves). A similar mindset was present in New England, and continues to be present to a degree.

Students, for the Tufts Observer, wrote a thorough piece with plenty of valid concerns:

It is in this context of Tufts’ own violent history and establishment of its borders that we speak out about its current institutional expansion, which continues to uphold its wealth and power by displacing people in surrounding communities. Over the past 30 years, community members and students have spoken out against Tufts’ expansion into Chinatown, Medford, and Somerville. This expansion is characterized by the increasing number of Tufts-owned administrative buildings, a growing student body, and the subsequent displacement of residents living in these immigrant, working-class neighborhoods hosting Tufts.

Indeed, Tufts continues to expand into surrounding neighborhoods, without providing housing for students. Because many Jumbos (the school mascot) are relatively wealthy, and because they live together and share housing costs, they are often able to pay more than local residents. Students limit the supply of housing and drive up the costs, forcing many local residents to move because they can no longer afford to live in the area. When the Red Line arrived at Davis Square, prices rose dramatically, and this will undoubtedly happen again with the Green Line Extension to College Avenue and Boston Avenue, which may soon become “College Square“.

Displacement is not pretty. Unsurprisingly, local residents have resorted to vilifying students.


The authors of the Tufts Observer piece arguably sympathized with this woman’s hateful rant, noting that Tufts students have “elitist” attitudes towards locals, calling them “townies”, when we are the ones “occupying” their land. I agree that Tufts students must be aware of their attitudes towards local residents, and I agree that many Tufts students come off as arrogant and superior.

However, it appears as though political correctness applies double standards, allowing local residents to insult college students with no ‘trigger warnings‘, while college students must be held to higher standards. I think that this belittles and demeans local residents. They should be held to the same standards. Unfortunately, students are afraid to express controversial ideas on college campuses, keeping civic discourse from moving forward, and keeping stakeholders silent and oppressed. (This is a serious problem plaguing campuses in the U.S.)

Stoking the populist fears of residents, Somerville has been exploring zoning ordinances that prohibit more than four unrelated people from living together in a single apartment, thereby singling out college students. This will only further strain the housing supply, because Somerville refuses to increase density and build taller. These exclusionary zoning tactics are also inherently discriminatory, reminiscent of zoning laws that prohibited poor (black) people from living in wealthy neighborhoods by mandating only suburban typologies, thereby limiting density and affordable housing. We should be increasing choice, not decreasing choice. Supply and demand.

Using terms such as ‘occupy’ and ‘colonize’, the authors are fervently anti-development, but this ‘underdogma‘ perspective is actually quite harmful and dangerous; poverty does not necessarily dictate virtue and weakness does not necessarily dictate righteousness. How far back must one retreat in order to not be occupying? Is the woman, whose YouTube video they defended, also occupying indigenous land? Are the Chinese-American immigrants in Chinatown occupying former Italian-American and Irish-American land? Clearly, this insider-outsider perspective is fallacious, and urban problems must be solved through a more nuanced approach. Cities are dynamic and ever-changing. The authors never defined ‘local’ residents, because it is hard to define the term. The Irish were once barred from practicing Catholicism in the Puritan’s Bay Colony, but have now, for a long while, been the largest ethnic group in the city, completely changing the culture and religious landscape of the city. We need to continue to welcome new residents, embracing change and dynamism. This is the American way.

Tufts is the largest employer in the area, providing local benefits like library access, fields for community use, community service projects, and reduced application fees for Somerville High School students. Higher education fuels Boston’s economy, allowing the city to remain globally competitive while other cities rust away. Progressives should be supporting change and development, not hindering it. Progressives should be advocating for public transportation, not fighting to eliminate the MBTA Green Line Extension, which promises to create jobs and services, improve job accessibility, increase property tax revenue, and enhance sustainable modes of transportation. I agree with the authors; Tufts must build more housing for students. But the surrounding neighborhoods must also be allowed to build more homes for residents! Can we find a balanced approach?


Triple Deckers (Riel, 2015)


The Green Line Extension has, of course, already started raising housing costs. Many that do not own property will be displaced. This is a valid and serious problem in Somerville, which is already the most densely populated municipality in New England. Meanwhile, in DorchesterBoston‘s largest neighborhood by far, gentrification concerns have been exacerbated by the MBTA Fairmount Line, a commuter line that has recently become accessible to the neighborhood due to the construction of several new stations. Dorchester was founded slightly before Boston, and it held America’s first town meeting. But today’s town meetings are rightly centered around displacement in the predominantly black community. While some have hailed the development of new train stations in an area without much more beyond the PCC M-Line, others see it as the white man’s train, soon to be retrofitted with diesel multiple-units (DMUs), and not for them. Some have tried place-making efforts at the stations, with local artwork, but deep-seated fears remain. Decades after white flight and redlining, they see that there is now interest in their neighborhood again, and they (rightly) worry that the new development will not be for them. Can we have racially and economically diverse neighborhoods?


…DMU trains are part of the MBTA’s vision for 2024. These trains are more efficient than traditional commuter rail sets, because each car has its own diesel engine, so the train, as a whole, can start and stop more quickly, safely, and efficiently. This means that there can be more stops along the line. After all, DMUs are similar to EMUs (electric multiple-units), which are essentially most subway trains, but DMUs run above ground (they can’t run underground due to fumes) on tracks that have not been electrified. If these new trains run more frequently, the Indigo Line can become an express subway line, similar to the S-Bahn in Germany (and other countries) or the RER in France (and other countries). These DMUs are lighter than conventional U.S. commuter rail lines, which required approval to operate, because the federal government needed to make sure that passengers would be safe alongside the same revenue tracks that freight trains use. Still, commuter rail in the U.S. has not been integrated with urban transit to the extent as it has been in Western Europe, where connections are easier to make, and fare payment systems are often the same across varying operating departments and even varying agencies. For instance, one could use an ‘MTA MetroCard’ for subways, buses, and MTA Long Island Rail Road, MTA Metro-North, as well as New Jersey Transit, and the Port Authority’s PATH, if New York was a European city…

But, alas, back to Dorchester. I think that a fear of displacement is 100% valid, and based upon decades of racist experiences in the City of Boston. But surely there is a way to delicately seek a balanced approach? It’s tremendously sad that many in this community believe that their neighborhood cannot get better and still support them. It’s also sad that some think that they need to be segregated in order to retain affordable housing. There are many ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ trying to build capacity and expand housing choices in the neighborhood. Recently, the MBTA has completed a joint development project at Ashmont on the Red Line, with affordable housing, retail, solar panels, and bicycle storage, while also renovating that station and nearby ones.

The Carruth, as it’s called, is one of many T.O.D.s in the region that the TRA has worked on, such as Woodland and Avenir, one of two remnant parcels resulting from the demolition of the elevated Green Line structure in the North Station area. Massachusetts Realty Group has taken over the P3 TOD contract with the T, and is currently working on a project in Mattapan; additional projects include “The Viola“, a P3 between the MBTA, MassDOT, and a private developer that will be constructing an air rights building and improving accessibility and reliability infrastructure for the Hynes Convention Center Station on the Green Line. The station work will cost $45.7 million, according to a preliminary estimate, and will consist of 390,000 total gross square feet, including 170 residential units, a 60-room hotel, 26,000 square feet of retail space, on-site parking and two public plazas. There are 54,500 square feet of air rights over the Massachusetts Turnpike and portions of the MBTA Green Line tunnel.

More information on The Carruth, one of the MBTA’s signature TODs…

When the railroad first came through the Ashmont section of Dorchester in 1850, it started a wave of residential development. For the first time, Bostonians could live in the ‘country’ and easily commute into Boston. It might not have been called transit-oriented development (TOD) at the time, but the idea was the same. Today, Ashmont is experiencing a new wave of TOD with the building of The Carruth.

Named after Herbert Carruth, one of Dorchester’s first real estate developers and public servants, the mixed-income housing development is being built in conjunction with the redevelopment of the Ashmont Peabody Square Transit Center. The Carruth, which is located on an adjacent 38,000 square foot lot owned by the MBTA, will also incorporate such ‘Smart Growth’ design principles as the use of photovoltaic panels, energy efficient appliances and building methods, and the redevelopment of a community center.

When completed, The Carruth will include 74 affordable rental units and 42 market-rate condominiums on six floors, as well as 80 underground parking spaces. All of the rental units will be available to households earning no more than 60% of the area median income, which is $40,380 for a two-person household in Boston. In addition, eight of those units will be rented to households earning no more than 30% of the area median income, which is $20,200. As a condition of the ground lease with the MBTA, all the rental units will remain affordable for the lease’s 85-year term.

The Carruth will also add 10,000 square feet of neighborhood retail space, which will include a Wainwright Bank, a coffee shop, and several other stores. The combination of new housing and new retail businesses will play an important role in the continued revitalization of the Ashmont neighborhood.

MassHousing made $35.1 million in loans for this project, including $4 million from the special $22 million “transit-oriented” set-aside of the Agency’s .

The developer of The Carruth is Trinity Financial, Inc. The architect is The Architectural Team, and the contractor is CWC Builders Inc. The management agent will be WinnResidential. Construction began in July of 2006 and is expected to be completed in December 2007.

More information

During the 1990s, both Dorchester’s Ashmont MBTA Station and its location in Peabody Square were both in disrepair. The station was a forlorn place, known for its poor and deteriorating station design as well as poor car traffic circulation which made it almost impossible for residents and MBTA travelers to enjoy or traverse through the square. Efforts within the community to put pressure on the MBTA to fix up Ashmont station had been occurring for over 30 years at this point, but it was only not until 2004 when St. Mark’s Main Street, a local neighborhood organization, banded together and finally made a difference. In the end MBTA promised to upgrade not only Ashmont Station, but all of Dorchester’s Red Line Stations, including Savin Hills, Fields Corner and Shawmut Stations.

As a part of the station upgrades, community members urged the MBTA to carve out a parcel of the corner of the MBTA yard, which was previously a parking lot, for development and to condense station development to one lot. Main Street members envisioned creating more space for retail in an area which was deprived of quality retail, and argued that this would improve residents’ quality of life.


Let’s take a deep breath and return to Somerville, and the relationship between transportation and urban development near Tufts…

The authors of our original piece left out the redevelopment of 574 Boston Avenue from their piece. A few years ago, I met with the talented and inspirational artisans who had been working there for decades. Tufts, which owned the building, was planning on evicting them, and I wanted to learn about their creative community before it was destroyed. The entire process was saddening, as these artisans dedicated their working lives to this building’s informal, interdisciplinary atmosphere, and they had to move. Where would they go? Could they find somewhere affordable nearby? Born and bred to a working-class family in Brooklyn, I, too, may soon need to leave my childhood home because it is too expensive, so I understood their confusion, fear, and pain. Among the many talented artisans: Rick BerryPaula GarbarinoJudy McKieKim Schmahmann, John and Jane Kostick, Mitch Ryerson, Dan Klein


Courtesy of Paula Garbarino


Courtesy of Jane Kostick


Courtesy of Jane Kostick




Courtesy of Jane Kostick


Courtesy of Jane Kostick


Another talented artisan, Lawrence “Stroker” Rogovin, wrote to me as well:

I finally found those photos I took of my shop space at 574 Boston Ave. as my shop partner and I were dismantling the last of the improvements and moving tools.  Photos date from late May or early June, 2013.  Space is the 4th floor, E corner.  Beautiful light in the morning.

Some folks just walked out of their shops and never looked back, tools still in cabinets, wood still on racks, like someone might abandon a sinking ship.  And for many that’s pretty much what it felt like.

For my shop parter and I, the act of returning the space to it’s original condition was oddly healing, as if reversing the process of designing and building out that shop over 21 years somehow completed our residency.  There are rituals to help people through most major life events, but not for shop moves.  So without doing it intentionally, I guess we invented our own.  Those last few days were some of the longest and hardest work I’ve done, but we did what had to be done and left the place pretty much as we found it in 1992.


Courtesy of Stroker


Courtesy of Stroker


Courtesy of Stroker


Courtesy of Stroker


574 Prior to Renovation (Riel, 2012)


574 Prior to Renovation (Riel, 2012)


Tufts Daily article (April 2013):

University plans to remake a Tufts-owned building at 574 Boston Ave. into teaching and office space will result in the May 31 eviction of its current residents, a community of artisans who have run their businesses there for over two decades.

Tenants on Nov. 30 received a notice from Walnut Hill Properties, Tufts’ non-academic property manager, which gave them six months to move out, according to a Feb. 4 Boston Occupier article.

“Tufts has been considering the best use for 574 Boston Avenue for several years, as the university’s need for space has been increasing,” Director of Public Relations Kim Thurler told the Daily in an email. “We will be working closely with the city and the local community as we move forward and expect to meet with the neighborhood as our plans develop further and we are closer to applying for a building permit.”

For the artisans, eviction means the demise of a large community of woodworkers, instrument makers, metalworkers and other artists who have made a home out of the four-story, 96,000 square-foot building.

John Brown, Paula Garbarino and Chris Keller (A ’76), woodworkers who design and build custom cabinets and furniture from the building, said they are frustrated at the loss of this communal workspace.

“There’s a big brain trust in that building, and it’s all going away,” Brown told the Daily. “We all can’t move to the same location because that building, that 574 Boston Ave., doesn’t exist anywhere in the area, and boy, have we looked for it.”

The building fostered a vibrant community of artisans who have shared ideas there for decades, Garbarino said.

“It is lovely to be able to go to work in your own greater neighborhood, to go to work in a place with light and air and fabulous neighbors who can give you advice and help you out,” Garbarino told the Daily. “I really value the greater community of people in that building.”

The artisans occupied the building on a month-to-month basis since all leases expired several years ago, Thurler said. Tufts has informed tenants about their intentions to renovate the building for many years.

Although the university did make the artists aware of its future plans, Keller said Walnut Hill was ambiguous about the situation until the artisans received the letter in November.

“There had been rumors floating around for at least a decade,” Keller told the Daily. “We all knew that eventually Tufts would want to do something else with the building – or we assumed they would.”

The university has been working to facilitate this move for those affected by the eviction, Thurler said.

“We have provided tenants with contact information for local commercial brokers who are well-qualified to provide relocation advice and assistance,” she said.

Despite university efforts, Garbarino said that many artisans have not found adequate spaces to relocate. For example, she has looked at 16 buildings but has not found a comparable place to 574 Boston Ave.

“When you go look at other commercial space and it’s all metal buildings with no windows and a cement slab to work on, it’s not the same – it’s not at all conducive to creative spirit,” Keller said.

These artisans lived and worked in an organic social, economic, political, and physical environment. The open-door space incentivized creativity, akin to Building 20 at MIT. The environment itself was conducive to their creativity. Many have moved to other locations, but many others have decided to retire and move on to other pursuits. The talented Dan Klein, on his website, writes

After 20 years at 574 Boston Avenue, my landlord Tufts University is “re-purposing” the building for office space and we have to be out by May 31st 2013. Faced with the daunting task of moving an industrial shop and finding affordable space in a metro area that has gentrified and evolved over the last 20 years, I’ve decided to “hang it up”. Thank you to all the wonderful, interesting and creative people I’ve meet through this business and a great 20 years in the community that was 574 Boston Ave.

Yet Tufts rightfully owned the building, and they’ve beautifully renovated the structure for the years to come. (If they had torn it down, then they would have had to deal with preservation issues and density issues, so the renovation was more feasible).

Tufts recognized that the Boston Avenue corridor will be dramatically transformed in the coming years, due to the Green Line Extension. In fact, the 100-year-old industrial building was originally fueled by its location adjacent to transportation provided by the Boston & Maine Railroad, now the right-of-way for the Commuter Rail and Green Line Extension.

Tufts University’s President, Anthony Monaco, wrote me an e-mail about 574:

Over the decades the property changed hands frequently with a variety of industrial uses including paper box manufacturing, wool scouring, and metallic fabrication.  When Tufts purchased the property in 1988 the building housed a firm named EM Decorating and other tenants.  Tufts purchase of the building at that time by Walnut Hill, our real estate corporation, was somewhat risky.  Walnut Hill Properties was formed 40 years ago to buy property for Tufts’ strategic purposes and to hold the properties in a self-sustaining manner until they would be needed. So for 25 years, until 2013, Tufts provided space at low cost to the artists, craftspeople and tradespeople that you recall. That community could not have flourished without Tufts’ support. When Tufts needed the building for its mission they were treated with respect and given assistance in relocation.

An understanding of the past should inform our future, especially if that past includes a community that has emerged through co-location and the synergy of shared creative work.  Much of our thinking about 574 Boston Ave renovation, both in selecting the interdisciplinary academic groups that will occupy the building and the design of the architecture, is grounded in a desire to create a unique creative community that will contribute every day to our mission.

We have designed the building to have many places in which people can come together, including informal group meeting spaces, collaborative technology, a coffee kiosk, individual and group study spaces, and a reading room in addition to the seminar rooms, teaching labs, classrooms, research labs and offices. We expect 30+ faculty, up to 200 graduate students, post docs and staff, and hundreds of undergraduates to be in the building every day.

The architecture of the building is designed to recall the building’s history and to link that history to contemporary academic purposes. We have the preserved the original dimensions of the building; exposed, sandblasted and preserved the interior wood structure and preserved the dimensions and material organization of the envelope windows, concrete structure and panels. We are using metal and graphics that recall it’s industrial history. We are now exploring ways to incorporate innovations of the 21st century as artwork in the building, drawn from Tufts faculty.

In all, we believe that our current plan to reuse 574 Boston Ave honors its history and many generations of people who worked there.  It is an urban development project of a very special kind, thoughtfully crafted and adapted to its next purpose.

I agree with President Monaco. The building has gender-neutral bathrooms, showers, kitchenettes, huddle rooms, phone rooms, conference rooms, classrooms, and lab spaces for Physics and Astronomy, Occupational Therapy, Community Health, Human-Centered Engineering, Robotics, Entrepreneurial Leadership, and a portion of Child Study and Human Development. Unlike many Tufts buildings, which have plenty of chairs but not many reasons for hanging out, 574 has plenty of mixed uses that can foster a dynamic, creative culture. It is actually fun to explore the space, and I wish I could be taking classes here, viewing the Commuter Rail and Green Line outside of the window…

Tufts has branded itself as a school that understands the importance of interdisciplinary research, and this building meets and exceeds the forms and functions necessary for that mindset. Charles Tufts, who wanted to place a light on the hill, would be happy if he knew that on the top floor of 574, natural light will pour into a 20-foot-wide corridor. The building is also LEED certified. Here are some of my photos from August:

Future Green Line ROW

Future Green Line ROW

Yet it is still important to recognize those that were there, which Tufts has not done. Lofty goals of active citizenship seemed to not apply when their own ivory tower needed to be expanded. Few would dare criticize their employer for the rapid eviction of a community of artisans. Of course, Tufts did its part to hide the fact, never stating that this building had tenants on its website, so perhaps most people simply were not aware. They also did not tell the artisans about their plans until a few months before eviction.

Tufts should have been more honest and authentic! What level of citizen participation is necessary?

ManipulationTherapyInformingConsultationPlacationPartnershipDelegated PowerCitizen Control

This is why I am actively working with the school on getting a plaque, and getting some of their artwork bought back into the space for placemaking efforts. After all, it will surely increase the collaborative, creative vibe of the students, faculty, and employees in the space. And along with many other initiatives, such as an Air Rights Building atop an MBTA Green Line Extension station, Tufts is proactively and sustainably planning for its transit-oriented future. It has a lot more to do, but Tufts seems to recognize the importance of planning ahead.


Tufts University plans to construct a 100,000-square-foot academic building above the MBTA’s College Avenue station in Medford, which is slated to open in late 2020, along with a footbridge that will connect the new facility to the Medford/Somerville campus. Preliminary designs for the new academic space call for classrooms, meeting and seminar rooms, offices and conference and teaching spaces. The lobby and atrium, classrooms and meeting spaces will be available for use by the community.

The new building is part of a public-private collaboration among the City of Medford, MBTA, Tufts and Cummings Foundation. Through the partnership, the MBTA and Tufts have signed an agreement that grants Tufts a 99-year lease of air rights over the College Avenue Station and commits Tufts to pay for associated project redesign and construction changes. Tufts will also pay for ongoing maintenance and security around the station, which will amount to significant ongoing savings to the MBTA. Tufts will be granting use of its land to the MBTA for the construction of the new station at no cost to the MBTA. Tufts has committed to pay $550,000 over four years to the City of Medford to support improvements throughout the city.

In addition, in lieu of property taxes, Tufts has pledged to pay the city $250,000 in the year that it receives a final certificate of occupancy for the Tufts building. At the start of the second year of occupancy, Tufts and the City will negotiate in good faith on an extension of the PILOT agreement, with the understanding that future payments be not less than the year one payment.

The university is moving forward with the design and application for permits for the footbridge that will connect the station to the campus and increase pedestrian safety by reducing foot traffic across the busy intersection of College and Boston avenues. The project will also include more accessible sidewalks, a landscaped pathway to the adjacent neighborhood bordered by Burget Avenue and retail space, such as a coffee shop, for T riders, neighbors, faculty, students and staff.

While Tufts is still determining how best to use the space, the building is envisioned as a home for “outward-reaching” academic endeavors that will benefit from being near public transportation. Proximity to the new T station will foster greater collaboration between faculty and students on the Medford/Somerville campus and those on the health sciences campus in downtown Boston, Monaco said. He noted that the building will not be used for student housing or for “wet” laboratories.

The opening of the College Avenue MBTA Station on the Tufts University Medford/Somerville Campus will create a new joint development gateway on campus, and it has the potential to measurably increase sustainable transportation among members of the campus community. Last semester, I worked with a team to develop a set of recommendations for the Tufts Campus Planning Office and the Office of Sustainability that will help achieve this vision. In particular, we examined how the College Avenue station, part of the planned Green Line Extension (GLX) project, can be leveraged to shift modes toward sustainable transportation.

MBTA Tufts Air Rights Building View 1 Large.croppedjpg


Amtrak View from GLX Corridor at 574 (Riel, 2015)

Corridor Prior to Renovation (Riel, 2012)


Tufts is no stranger to air rights, having created the Tufts Development Corporation in the 1980s in order to explore buying South Station air rights for its Chinatown campus. However, it sold the air-rights to Hines Development Corporation because the vibrations from the train traffic made the site unsuitable for high-tech firms, which is what Tufts had intended for the area. Moreover, the added complexity of decking over diesel tracks made the process quite difficult, as seen by the fact that South Station Bus Terminal did not encompass the entire area so that diesel fumes did not have to be ventilated mechanically through the structure.

Yet unlike the Red Line entrances at Davis Square, which are two one-story structures, completely vacant of any additional uses in the heart of booming Somerville, space will be maximized for the Green Line station at College Avenue and Boston Avenue. Indeed, unlike the MBTA, which is a risk-averse public authority, Tufts has bravely proposed visionary plans.

We must make sure that the Air Rights Building gets built, which requires the Green Line Extension to reach Tufts. Rather than decry change, we need to adapt, and we need to propose productive, practical, visionary solutions. The T and Tufts must work together to design smart extensions and expansions. After all, our school is a place for active citizenship


Bioswale at Tufts; Among Others… (Riel, 2015)

Green Roof at Tufts (Riel, 2015)

Quad Planning (Riel, 2015)

Tufts User Experience VS Formal Experience (Riel, 2015)

Shared Space on Tufts Campus (Riel, 2015)

Active Transportation (Riel, 2015)


Safer Packard and Powder House (Google Earth)

Born and bred in Brooklyn, my name is Rayn Riel, and I’m a Senior Editor at PlaNYourCity. I’ve circumnavigated the world twice in order to research transportation finance and joint (real estate) development practices in 30+ countries and 25+ U.S. states. I’m a graduate student at Tufts University and I’ve designed Tufts’ only undergraduate urban planning degree, I’ve founded Tufts only undergraduate urban planning student group, and I’ve also been working as a GIS Lab Assistant. Having interned at the NYC Department of City Planning for the past two summers, I interned at MTA NYC Transit and at the MTA HQ Real Estate Department this summer. I will graduate with a B.A. and M.A. in Urban Policy and Planning in May 2016. I intend to become a “Riel Estate” professional.



More of Rayn Riel’s Boston Photos…

View of Boston from Charlestown (Riel, 2012)

View of Boston from Cambridge (Riel, 2012)

Government Center T Renovation (Riel, 2015)

T Entrance in Retail Building (Riel, 2015)

Advertisements on Silver Line Entrance in South Boston (Riel, 2015)

Silver Line in South Boston (Riel, 2015)

Silver Line at South Station (Riel, 2015)

South Boston Northern Avenue Bridge (Riel, 2015)

Old State House T Station; No T Entrance Signage… (Riel, 2015)

Fire House Joint Development (Riel, 2015)

Big Dig Ventilation Building & Mural on Greenway (Riel, 2015)

Old Facade, New Building in Boston CBD (Riel, 2015)

Duck Boats in Boston (Riel, 2015)

Zakim Bridge in Boston (Riel, 2015)

Boston Harbor (Riel, 2015)

Historic North End (Riel, 2015)

Historic Charlestown (Riel, 2015)

Boston from Bunker Hill (Riel, 2015)

Boston from M.I.T. (Riel, 2014)

Acela at South Station (Riel, 2015)


AND! Air rights above the Turnpike? 

According to the Strategic Development Study Committee, developing atop the Turnpike in Boston would… 

■ Reinforce the vitality and quality of life in adjacent neighborhoods.

■ Enhance Boston as a place to live, work, and invest.

■ Repair and enrich Boston’s public realm.

■ Foster increased use and capacity of public transportation and decreased reliance on private automobiles.


Source: BRA


Source: BRA


Source: BRA


Mass Pike Air Rights


(Similar to air rights above NYC highways)…


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33 Comments on “Extensions & Expansions”

  1. maxdtc August 27, 2015 at 10:21 pm #

    I don’t understand real estate all that well to be honest, but there’s definitely something to be said for dismantling exclusionary zoning. I’m just not sure what incentive the market has for creating middle income housing in increasingly high cost areas, and I’m not sold on the idea that a hands off approach would ultimately result in lower cost housing – high end developers have a market and they know how to optimize gain.

    More to your points made specifically about Tufts University re: institutional expansion and the like, I appreciate your thoughtful characterization of the university’s efforts to foster sustainable development as well as its failure to provide sufficient housing for students. Unfortunately, the student housing problem is in large part caused by exclusionary zoning – I can imagine any number of developers might jump at the chance to construct a private, high rise student village at Tufts (not unlike Boston University’s or the plethora that exist at hundreds of schools, University of Texas at Austin comes to mind). While Somerville’s desire to preserve its two and three family homes makes a lot of sense to me, I think it would be valid to analyse specific neighbourhoods a little more closely and create room for more dense development where appropriate.

    At a more general level, it seems to me re-establishing middle and low income families is near impossible in high cost, large metropolitan areas (at least in the short term). Certainly many efforts are being made to preserve current residents, but, with the exception of land trusts, even those efforts are only temporary. In its foreseeable future, I don’t see Somerville being a haven for any group other than the upper middle class. While low and middle income families struggle just to stay put, how can there be any room for sustainable immigration? High cost housing is but one small piece of the problem – what low and middle income job opportunities are left in Somerville? The brick and automobile industries that once sustained the middle class and allowed the city to grow have moved on. I think that if we were to take a macro level approach to really improving low and middle income outcomes in the United States, we’d start investing more in smaller, satellite cities where there is still room for local manufacturing, small business (not talking start-ups here), and municipal services to thrive and exist without constant bombardment from interests that have grown too large.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rayn Riel September 12, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

    574 Updates: Working with Tufts in order to buy relatively “affordable” work from 574’s former artisans! There are many lonely walls that need artwork. Also, since many artisans made furniture, they are also exploring buying flame-retardant, relatively sturdy furniture. And they are also going to install a plaque in order to raise awareness about the prior uses of the building.


    • Rayn Riel September 30, 2015 at 9:41 am #

      Good news from Lorin Polidora, Manager of Administrative Services at the Collaborative Learning & Innovation Complex (574 Boston Avenue)! She wrote this message below to quite a few of the artisans, which I’d previously introduced her to via e-mail…


      “While searching for some history about the building at 574 Boston Ave, I came across Rayn’s posts regarding the construction and the artisans subsequently affected by the project, and reached out. Thank you Rayn, for your work bringing this issue to a greater audience, and connecting me with these artists.

      Now that I have the opportunity to outfit the building with art, I feel that it is important to recognize the history and the people that have been a part of 574. I see this as an opportunity to reimagine the space in the context of the building’s history, and I would love to work with as many artists as possible (budget permitting) to bring your work back into the building. I am mainly looking for pieces that can be hung on the walls, but I’m also open to other possibilities. This is a great chance to expose the larger Tufts community to the history of the space, and some truly beautiful craftsmanship and art.

      In addition, the Dean of Arts & Sciences and the Dean of Engineering will be co-hosting a 574 Open House on Friday, October 9th at 4:00pm. We would love to have you join us for this event. If you’d like to meet with me, and/or get a tour of the building at another time, please let me know.




  3. Rayn Riel October 1, 2015 at 2:44 pm #

    This message is sent on behalf Dean Glaser and Dean Qu.


    Please join us for an OPEN HOUSE at 4:00pm on Friday, October 9th at CLIC, located at 574 Boston Avenue.

    Faculty, students, and staff are encourage to explore the space at the Collaborative Learning & Innovation Complex (CLIC), and learn more about this 95,000 square-foot structure that will foster and support an inventive culture. This former factory fulfills Tufts’ vision to break down traditional barriers between disciplines with potential for collaboration. Faculty, students (both undergraduate and graduate), and staff will find a building that balances a relaxed, warm atmosphere that encourages the organic, spontaneous nature of student activity with the serious and quieter labor of scholarly pursuits.

    We hope to see you for an opportunity to walk through the space, and enjoy some light refreshments.

    Thank you,
    James Glaser, Dean, School of Arts and Sciences
    Jianmin Qu, Dean, School of Engineering


    • Rayn Riel October 1, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

      The Collaborative Learning & Innovation Complex (CLIC) fulfills Tufts’ vision to physically and socially break down traditional barriers between disciplines, with potential for interdisciplinary collaboration and creativity.

      However, unbeknownst to most, this creative and collaborative culture had already been present at 574 Boston Avenue for decades. A community of artisans thrived there until their sudden eviction, in order for renovation to commence. Tufts broke down their community in order to expand our community. Many of these artisans found new spaces, but some decided to move on entirely.

      UP3 has been advocating for 574’s former artisans, many of whom will be in attendance. UP3 has succeeded in convincing Tufts to buy some of their work for placemaking efforts at the building, and the University will also be building a plaque in order to raise awareness about the unique history of the space. For more information, please feel free to read these articles.


  4. Rayn Riel November 10, 2015 at 1:56 pm #

    Creating campus change:


    • RR January 19, 2016 at 2:22 pm #


      Winter is coming back to campus! Memories from last year…


  5. RR January 23, 2016 at 1:45 pm #


  6. RR January 24, 2016 at 9:04 am #


  7. Rayn Riel January 28, 2016 at 12:40 pm #

    Thinking about Boston as a metropolitan region…



  8. Rayn Riel February 1, 2016 at 4:45 pm #


    • Rayn Riel February 1, 2016 at 4:47 pm #

      What is Boston’s narrative? Sense of place? Gateway cities, secondary cities, inner cities, edge cities, rings, sectors, suburbs, exurbs…


  9. Rayn Riel February 1, 2016 at 5:23 pm #


  10. Rayn Riel February 10, 2016 at 12:32 pm #

    Would you consider the Boston region a livable place due to its transportation infrastructure and architecture?

    RR 2016


  11. Rayn Riel May 5, 2016 at 6:35 pm #

    Near Tufts Loj in New Hampshire:


  12. Fred June 26, 2016 at 7:14 pm #

    This land is your land, this land is my land…

    Only for white folks


    • Bobby July 19, 2016 at 8:27 pm #

      and in rich nabes, NIMBYists have POWER and INFLUENCE, while in poor nabes, NIMBYists don’t get their way — so we have hi-rise condos in poor nabes, not rich “historic” ones.


  13. Yoyo July 29, 2016 at 4:03 pm #



    Here are some reasons to get people to shift from cars to transit:
    Reducing pollution
    Increasing efficiency
    Reducing carnage
    Improving society
    Access for all



    The controversy over what to do with the 3.5-mile long abandoned northern section of the defunct LIRR Rockaway Line between Ozone Park and Rego Park has once again made it into a major newspaper, in this case in an article in the New York Times about a week ago. In that article we learned that the state will be awarding a $500,000 grant to the Trust for Public Land to study the QueensWay proposal to turn the abandoned railroad right-of-way into a linear park and biking/walking trail. It is rather curious that no equivalent grant is being made to the groups – and such people and groups do exist – advocating that the line should be resurrected as a – hold your hats – rail line. An extension of the “R” subway line, in fact.

    The advocates for the Greenway insist that the revived line would accomplish little and that few people would ride. Oh really – a line that parallels the heavily trafficked Woodhaven Boulevard corridor – a line that would provide a one seat connection from densely settled Queens neighborhoods like Rego Park, Jackson Heights, Woodside, Astoria and Long Island City to East and West Midtown, that would provide possible transfer connections to the IND “A” and BMT “J” lines, and that would also serve neighborhoods of moderate density in central Queens that have no heavy rail access at this time – no one’s going to ride it?

    Furthermore the Greenway crowd says that reviving the line would be too costly. Yes much work would be needed to get it back up and running. But as compared to constructing a wholly new rail line the cost of getting the defunct line back in working order would be a genuine bargain, probably around one tenth the cost of new construction.

    The Woodhaven Junction station. Photo: John Chevier / Flickr.

    Many people have argued that the line should be reactivated as a branch of the Long Island Rail Road. This would be better than a greenway, but not as good as a connection to the Queens Boulevard subway line. The capacity of the Queens Boulevard line is determined by a combination of signaling along each of its four tracks and by its terminal capacity, i.e. the ability of the terminal stations, 71-Continental Avenue-Forest Hills, 179th Street and Parsons/Archer to process or relay arriving and departing trains. The express tracks are, happily, operating at the current design capacity of 30 trains per hour.

    Unfortunately the local tracks, while also theoretically capable of 30 trains per hour, are presently only running at about 20 trains per hour in the peak period. This is necessitated by the terminal at 71-Continental, which can only turn around about 20 trains per hour at the limit, and that not very well. For this reason the 63rd St connection to Queens Boulevard required a “robbing from Peter to pay Paul” switcheroo: the “G” line had to be cut back to Court Square and its slots on Queens Boulevard given over to another, Manhattan oriented service, first to the “V”, and now to the “M”. (For the first few years the “G” line ran to and from Forest Hills nights and weekends, when there was no “V” train service. But this passenger friendly part-time service died to make weekend service changes more doable).

    Of course it needn’t be that way. Even in the original MTA plans from the late ‘60s “G” service would have remained intact. The express by-pass alone would have insured this. This is where the old LIRR Rock Line comes into play. By connecting this line to the Queens Boulevard line east (subway north) of 63rd Drive station – the tunnel bell mouths are there specifically for that scenario – the path to another local service terminal would be created, i.e. now the “G”, along with the “M” and “R” could run along the Queens Boulevard local tracks, with one of these service branching off after 63rd Drive and heading off to a new terminal at either Howard Beach or, it would be hoped, JFK, and thus not threatening to overwhelm 71-Continental as a terminal. In this way peak trains per hour on the Queens Boulevard local tracks could be raised from the present day 20 trains per hour up to 27 ½ trains per hour, given the current timetables on those three lines. This would be a significant improvement in service, especially if the “G” were equipped with full length trains.

    These are the transit advantages of reactivating the Rockaway Branch as a subway line. Neighborhoods like Woodhaven, Rego Park and Ozone Park get quicker service to Midtown. Greenpoint and Williamsburg can be reconnected to Astoria and Jackson Heights with revived G train service. Local stations on the Queens Boulevard line see seven more trains an hour.

    These benefits are worth the money. This is something we can do. If you agree, sign our petition to Governor Cuomo and be counted.

    Capt Subway is a Queens resident and transit advocate with 37 years of experience working for the New York City Transit Authority, including Senior Schedule Manager. He has had his alias for at least as long as I’ve had mine.



    • Jinxor September 10, 2016 at 10:04 am #

      it’s more complicated than just building the track
      then you need to figure out how many more people to hire in the budget
      for terminal operations, etc etc


    • Yokoinu September 14, 2016 at 5:28 pm #


      Clearly the rail is more important than park. Already enough park there, not enough rail. Opposite for High Line in Manhattan. Where enough subways, not enough public space.

      NIMBYists don’t want a park, or a rail, so go figure

      fears of crime (especially on the SUBWAY!)!!! but numbers don’t add up

      crime, safety, mdbf, trips complete, fleet age, wait assessment by division, this year last year current month and 12-month rolling, differences, ats, otp, delays, weekday weekend, kpi service, station subway car, etc…

      time for some public commentary, operations details, finances, procurements… certainly not the money for this right now. would need money for more trains, more tracks, stations, ADA, etc

      there is so much HOT AIR in our politics. cherry picking numbers, etc. bowling green station also just blows HOT AIR. but the subway has always been HOT. so many layers, water-proofed, hard for the air to be recycled. at least most of the time, it is above the sewer and water pipes, so they don’t burst on it. (and the electrical grid is also above those pipes, and water pipes above sewer pipes — hah!)



  14. Iona September 25, 2016 at 3:14 pm #

    The rockaway line is basically a commuter railroad, was built by LIRR… Some of the subway really is like the LIRR. So much history in our subway. All the old streetcars, horse cars, trolleys, cable cars, elevated railroads… The BMT Fulton used to go all the way to downtown Brooklyn, now just remnants on the elevated A in Queens. Downtown Brooklyn too, so different now, MetroTech, the fulton mall, the BID did a good job there. and this:


    now we have express buses with AC, kneeling buses, hybrid, articulated buses, wow

    USED TO CONNECT to Atlantic Branch!
    Now we just have: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IND_Rockaway_Line


  15. LibertarianCity January 29, 2017 at 4:32 pm #

    It’s true… zoning is NOT progressive!



    One kind of regulation that was actually intended to harm the poor, and especially poor minorities, was zoning. The ostensible reason for zoning was to address unhealthy conditions in cities by functionally separating land uses, which is called “exclusionary zoning.” But prior to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, some municipalities had race-based exclusionary land-use regulations. Early in the 20th century, several California cities masked their racist intent by specifically excluding laundry businesses, predominantly Chinese owned, from certain areas of the cities.

    Today, of course, explicitly race-based, exclusionary zoning policies are illegal. But some zoning regulations nevertheless price certain demographics out of particular neighborhoods by forbidding multifamily dwellings, which are more affordable to low- or middle-income individuals. When the government artificially separates land uses and forbids building certain kinds of residences in entire districts, it restricts the supply of housing and increases the cost of the land, and the price of housing reflects those restrictions.

    Moreover, when cities implement zoning rules that make it difficult to secure permits to build new housing, land that is already developed becomes more valuable because you no longer need a permit. The demand for such developed land is therefore artificially higher, and that again raises its price.

    Minimum lot sizes

    Other things equal, the larger the lot, the more you’ll pay for it. Regulations that specify minimum lot sizes — that say you can’t build on land smaller than that minimum — increase prices. Regulations that forbid building more units on a given-size lot have the same effect: they restrict supply and make housing more expensive.

    People who already live there may only want to preserve their lifestyle. But whether they intend to or not (and many certainly do so intend) the effect of these regulations is to exclude lower-income families. Where do they go? Where they aren’t excluded — usually poorer neighborhoods. But that increases the demand for housing in poorer neighborhoods, where prices will tend to be higher than they would have been.

    And it’s not just middle-class families that do this. Very wealthy residents of exclusive neighborhoods and districts also have an incentive to support limits on construction in order to maintain their preferred lifestyle and to keep out the upper-middle-class hoi polloi. Again, the latter then go elsewhere, very often to lower-income neighborhoods — Williamsburg in Brooklyn is a recent example — where they buy more-affordable housing and drive up prices. Those who complain about well-off people moving into poor neighborhoods — a phenomenon known as “gentrification” — may very well have minimum-lot-size and maximum-density regulations to thank.

    When government has the authority to restrict building and development, established residents of all income levels will use that power to protect their wealth.

    Parking requirements

    Another land-use regulation that makes space more expensive is municipal requirements that establish a minimum number of parking spaces per housing unit.

    According Donald Shoup’s analysis, parking requirements add significantly to the cost of housing, particularly in areas with high land values. For example, in Los Angeles, parking requirements can add $104,000 to the cost of each apartment. Parking requirements limit consumers’ choices and increase the cost of housing even for those who prefer not to pay for parking.

    Developers typically build only the minimum amount of parking required by law, which indicates that those requirements are binding. That is, in a less-regulated environment, developers would devote less land to parking and more land to living space. A greater supply of living space will, other things equal, lower the cost of housing.

    Smart-growth regulations

    In the 1970s, municipalities enacted new rules that were designed to protect farmland and to preserve green space surrounding rapidly growing cities by forbidding private development in those areas. By the late 1990s, this practice evolved into a land-use strategy called “smart growth.” (Here’s a video I did about smart growth.) While some of these initiatives may have preserved green space that can be seen, what is harder to see is the resulting supply restriction and higher cost of housing.

    Again, the lower the supply of housing, other things equal, the higher real-estate prices will be. Those who now can’t afford to buy will often rent smaller apartments in less-desirable areas, which typically have less influence on the political process. Locally elected officials tend to be more responsive to the interests of current residents who own property, vote, and pay taxes, and less responsive to renters, who are more likely to be transients and nonvoters. That, in turn, makes it easier to implement policies that use regulation to discriminate against people living on low incomes.


    Zoning, minimum lot sizes, minimum parking requirements, and smart-growth regulations demonstrably and significantly increase the cost of housing for everyone by raising construction costs and restricting the supply of housing.

    The average household in the United States today, rich or poor, spends about a third of its income on housing. But higher home prices hit lower-income households disproportionately hard because a dollar increase in housing expenditure represents a larger percentage of a poorer household’s budget. Indeed, the bottom 20 percent of households spends around 40 percent of income on housing.

    In other words, these land-use regulations are unfairly regressive. Relaxing or even removing them would be a step toward achieving greater equity.


    In the past, private companies ran the trains, interurbans, trolleys and buses. They were usually able to make a profit providing freedom and personal mobility to people of all ages and income levels. Then the government interfered in the market, forcing operators to charge fares that were too low, and subsidizing roads, garages and oil so that private cars had an unfair advantage. The private operators went out of business, and since then a skeleton transit system has been operated by the government at great public expense.

    Government subsidy of driving has also destroyed our traditional small towns and cities, leaving hard-working families with a difficult choice between long drives and a gentrified urban lifestyle surrounded by intellectuals and criminals.

    A conservative solution would gradually phase out driving subsidies and allow entrepreneurs to start new bus and train services. As publicly-owned transit routes become more profitable, they could be sold off to the highest bidder.


  16. Fixin' August 6, 2017 at 7:18 pm #

    Now they are finally fixing Penn.

     It’s complicated work, being done in a very tight space. Much of that space is being used just to store the equipment, replacement track and other materials — mounds of it sit on the tracks and on the platform, waiting to be moved to the areas in need of repair. And much of the track material is custom made. “This is not something you go to the rail equipment aisle of Home Depot and just pick up,” said Amtrak executive vice president Stephen Gardner.
     It’s Track 10, with its 1910 design and concrete and wood configuration, that was in “very bad shape,” said Wick Moorman, Amtrak’s chief executive. Ripping it up and replacing it is an intensive, time-consuming, “extraordinarily laborious” process. That was clear Thursday just by walking to the edge of the platform, and watching the work unfold. “I have never seen an environment as difficult as this,” Moorman told The Point.
     It’s dark and grimy, with no floodlights to assist the work, since engineers are still guiding trains into and out of the station on nearby tracks. The work is intensive and piecemeal; the ceilings are low, the platforms are narrow. It’s not an area that can accommodate huge cranes lowering 30 feet of track at a time. That means everything takes longer, and requires more people. The piles of new wood, most of it oak, are still on the platforms reeking of creosote.
     It’s surprisingly quiet, even as the work goes on. There’s no jack-hammering or drilling. The loudest sounds come from the trains themselves, still winding their way down the tracks on either side of the work being done. At any given time, particularly overnight, as many as 100 people could be working on the project, pouring concrete, replacing tracks and ties. Far fewer work during the day, to limit the disruption. So far, Amtrak is on schedule but it‘s all about the time. Moorman said, “The most valuable commodity in Penn Station in terms of doing things down here, is time not money.” He then continued, laughing: “I say that because we happen to have a little bit of money right now. At some point, that may change.”



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