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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.



OPINION

Building a better trust: two views

7/18/2002

LEGISLATION to create a Massachusetts Millennium Greenway Trust to operate the park and development parcels to be created on the surface when the Central Artery goes underground was filed by Acting Governor Jane Swift on Tuesday and will be given a hearing by the Legislature's Transportation Committee at 10 o'clock this morning at the State House. Following are two sets of comments, from Robert A. Brown, a principal with Childs Bertman Tseckares Inc., who is president of the Boston Society of Architects, and from Bennet Heart, a senior attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation.

THE BOSTON Society of Architects has reviewed the legislation to create the Massachusetts Millennium Greenway Trust and commends the city and state for producing such a thorough proposal.

To improve it, we would like to suggest several changes.

First, we believe that the legislation should state in clear and visionary language the goal of the new trust, which is to create a great, world-class space on the surface parcels that will be left when the Central Artery is torn down.

The trust should have more City of Boston representation and should include members with demonstrated experience in the physical design and operation of urban open space.

Funding for operations and maintenance of these public open spaces should not fall too heavily on the business community. The creation of a betterment district, by which nearby properties would be assessed, is an excellent idea. But we suggest that this source pay not two-thirds of the cost, as now proposed, but one-third, with the city and the state supplying one-third each. Also, we suggest three levels of assessment rather than two so that properties can be charged fairly according to the increased value they will enjoy when the greenway is functioning.

We believe a new ''final corridor plan,'' as proposed in the bill, would cause a year's needless delay. Further work should build on the master plan already completed.

The members of the trust, as well as the two advisory groups proposed, need to be individuals with a passion for urban space and the ability to head the design, programming, and operation of a great park system. And the executive director hired by the trust must be a visionary thinker who has world-class experience in the design and operation of open space.

Their leadership needs to inspire the confidence and fulfill the dreams of the residents, businesses, and visitors to Boston, as well as the designers, contractors, performers, and operators of the greenway.

Also, we should not rush to create an entity just to have one in place. The Millennium Trust should be thoughtfully crafted to oversee the historic transformation of our city.

-- ROBERT A. BROWN

THE MILLENNIUM Greenway Trust bill should not be passed until a number of fundamental problems are dealt with.

In the view of the Conservation Law Foundation, the defects are as follows:

The bill creates a major land development company instead of a parks agency. The trust would have control not only of the park parcels, but also of 15 parcels designated for development. In addition, it would be empowered to acquire other property adjacent to the 30-acre corridor for any purpose. Under this real estate development oriented trust, the parks could be an afterthought. Responsibility for the development parcels should be lodged elsewhere.

The trust has unsufficient public accountability. It would be able to carry out significant planning work, possibly acquire new parcels, select designers and contractors, and charge fees to use park parcels, without any public process. The seven trustees would serve long terms of up to seven years, with no confirmation process to speak of and no stated ability to terminate them, even for cause.

The bill does not ensure that the state will keep its promise to build parks in place of the elevated highway. While there are several references to environmental certificates and to specific park parcels, the legislation does not formally embrace the Boston 2000 land use plan developed by the Boston Redevelopment Authority establishing which parcels are slated for open space and which for development. Conservation restrictions should be locked in on a parcel-by-parcel basis before this property is transferred to the trust.

These significant problems are in a bill that arrives at the tail end of the legislative session, which is set to close July 31. The bill should not be passed until it is clear that the governance and funding structure it establishes sets the stage for great and enduring parks on the surface artery.

- BENNET HEART




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