BOSTON (CBS) — Take a look around Boston these days and signs of progress are everywhere. With a skyline dotted with cranes, it’s clear this city is in the middle of a major transformation.

Boston is a much different place than it was 40 years ago when Jack Williams first arrived here at WBZ-TV to anchor the news.

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Jack Williams has been with WBZ-TV for 39 years. (WBZ-TV)

Jack Williams has been with WBZ-TV for 39 years. (WBZ-TV)

Now as Jack prepares to retire, he toured several areas of the city to reflect on what Boston was like when he first came here.

“People don’t understand just how dingy the Waterfront was 40 years ago,” said Williams as he stood on one of the new walkways in the Seaport area. “I mean this was nothing more than a cesspool.”

Now, old parking lots and deserted warehouses are being replaced by office buildings, fancy apartments, and chic restaurants. “Things just boomed. . . It was a golden opportunity and they took advantage of it,” explained Williams.

The Seaport area has become a magnet for young people, many of whom are entrepreneurs in high tech fields. “It has really just added a spark to the future of Boston. . . We are just beginning to see how beautiful this is going to be. It’s going to be unique in the country,” said Williams.

Next, Jack took a stroll along the Rose Kennedy Greenway which was created when the old elevated highway was put underground. “The Big Dig was kind of frightening when you thought about it at first. A lot of businesses seriously got hurt. The cost overruns made us the laughing stock of the nation.”

Traffic tie ups became the norm. “It was dirty. It was noisy,” recalled Williams. “Now the traffic is down there somewhere, and we are walking up here in the sunshine and the kids are playing.”

Williams definitely believes the trauma of the construction was worth it. “It paid off. You wouldn’t have the Seaport district without the Big Dig. You wouldn’t have Rose Kennedy Greenway.”

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As Jack looked around 27 acres of new park space, children ran on the thick grass and people gathered around the fountains and food trucks.

“How smart was the city? They didn’t sell it to a bunch of developers. They could have made a lot of money,” said Williams. “This is prime real estate.”

One of the busiest areas of development is along Washington Street in downtown Boston. Standing in the shadow of the Millennium Place project, Williams said, “I think Washington Street is going thru the greatest transformation of any part of the city right now. It’s incredible . . . all those extremely expensive apartment buildings going up.”

Jack in a promo for WBZ-TV in the 1980's. (WBZ-TV)

Jack in a promo for WBZ-TV in the 1980’s. (WBZ-TV)

It’s a radically different area than it was when Jack was a new reporter in Boston.

“People would come here to Filene’s Basement behind me, when it was still there and Jordan Marsh during the day. But during the night time, no, you had the Combat Zone a few blocks down there, and boy that was awful,” he said.

The old red light district was known for topless bars and prostitutes working the street.

Williams thinks the progress here, and across the city, is a good thing, a sign of the city’s vitality. But he believes there are challenges that need to be addressed. For example, he would like to see city leaders address the need for the construction of affordable housing, not just luxury condos.

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“This city is roaring, despite record snow, high taxes, people looking down their noses, Deflategate, the whole bit,” said Williams. You know what; this is still a great place to live, and this no slowing it down.”