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Beyond The Big Dig
About this project

What happens to the ribbon of land being created by the depression of the Central Artery may be the most important development decision to face Boston in a generation.


Park designs surfacing quickly

By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., Globe Staff, 4/20/2003

Just to show how quickly things are moving on the design of the new Surface Artery parks: Five designs by the professionals on the EDAW team for the four Wharf District blocks, the heart of the corridor, are already being presented to the public.

The five themes, presented at a charrette at New England Aquarium this month, are Cultural Plaza, Four Seasons Garden, Civic Promenade, Historic Tableau, and Common Ground.

Those labels hint at what visitors to Boston might find in what is now the shadowy space under the old elevated Central Artery. But the full views will soon be available on the World Wide Web. And at a May 8 "listening session," the designers will hear more from the public.

"Tell us what you think," EDAW's Dennis Carmichael told the 70 or so attendees at the Imax Theater as the five concepts were previewed. "How are we doing?"

It is inevitable, he said, that elements of the five plans will be mixed in the final design, and that new ideas will emerge before the five are reduced to two designs at the end of June.

Parallel processes exist for the smaller sets of parks bracketing the Wharf District, in the North End and Chinatown.

Amid the euphoria over actual forward movement on Surface Artery designs, however, a nasty subject came up again at last week's meeting of the Mayor's Surface Artery Completion Task Force. It's the governing legislation for the land.

The short-version history of the issue goes like this:

It's never been established who will own, pay to maintain, or operate and be responsible for the new parks. So a bill was debated last year that would have created a new authority-like entity - a public trust - to take over.

It went down to an ignominious barrage of criticism and indifference. But lo and behold, it's been tinkered with and refiled in this legislative session.

A hearing will be held at 10 a.m. April 29. If the comments of the task force members last week were any indication, this version is headed for the same fate.

Larry Rosenblum of the Leather District noted that the proposed trust would oversee both parks and development parcels, which would mean short shrift for the green space, he concluded. "The underlying problem still exists and won't go away," he said.

Patrice Todisco of the Boston Greenspace Alliance said that it was "curious, at a time when we're trying to streamline government, we would propose an agency that looks like this."

The Artery Business Committee doesn't like the proposed tax on businesses to pay for upkeep.

Residents of Harbor Towers say the bill would give them no representation, and in an unusual show of unity the North End and Chinatown delegates agreed.

Summed up the Conservation Law Foundation's Bennet Heart: "That bill has all of the same fundamental flaws. There are some improvements at the margins."

So who's pushing it? Nobody we talked to knew.

But with the Metropolitan District Commission being subsumed by Environmental Affairs, it's just possible the parks could also fall under a state park network.

The mayor's task force might like that. But the parks are in his city, and the mayor probably wouldn't.

Other assets

Puddingstone Park on Mission Hill, with its great views, won't be done till later this year, but the development that made it possible, One Brigham Circle, opens for business early next month.

Walgreen's and both Fleet and Citizens banks will move into their new spaces, making way for a restaurant, plus a public plaza to be constructed at Calumet and Tremont streets.

Developer Ronald M. Druker, president of the Druker Co., has given $150,000 to the Boston Public Library for an annual lecture series, "Celebrating Design and Architecture." It commemorates the 100th anniversary of the family's involvement in real estate. The first lecture was given last month by Robert A.M. Stern, dean of the School of Architecture at Yale University and architect of the Spangler Center at Harvard's School of Business.

Have a question about development in Boston? E-mail Lots & Blocks at blocks@globe.com.

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