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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.



A BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL

Grand designs

2/1/2003

AS FINAL planning for the Rose Kennedy Greenway begins, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority has given designers of the eight park parcels a total budget target of $31 million. It is not enough.

In fact, no dollar figure should constrain designers now. Eventually their proposals will have to fit into budgets that are reasonable and that allow for first-class programming and maintenance for years to come. But the first task of the three design teams recently selected for the greenway is to produce a variety of concepts. They should feel free to advance concepts that are bold - even if they are costly.

The winding, milelong corridor of surface space to be created when the elevated Central Artery comes down represents an extraordinary opportunity for Boston to redefine its downtown, to reconnect neighborhoods, and to create an urban open space of world renown. This is not likely to happen on a budget of $31 million.

The underground artery is an engineering marvel that should improve highway transportation markedly. But the street-level space has the potential to mean much more: It can become a much-needed common ground for all of Greater Boston.

The $31 million figure is about 0.19 percent of the cost of the entire project. This means that for every $100 spent on the Big Dig, just 19 cents - less than a quarter - would be earmarked for the parks.

Turnpike officials say they have some flexibility. They point out that additional money will be spent on the surface above the artery for trees, sidewalks, and other basics. Compared with other parks, they say, the $31 million target works out to a fairly generous amount per square foot. But others disagree.

The Artery Business Committee says the Norman Leventhal Park at Post Office Square cost more per square foot when it was built - probably double when adjusted for inflation. And that park, while a city treasure, is mostly grass and pathways. The greenway parks may include similar areas but should also have ambitious designs, including, perhaps, cafes, a carousel, a skating rink, a theater. The ideas are endless - or should be.

By comparison, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society is hoping to raise $70 million for a world-class "Garden under Glass" and other facilities on three parcels. The Turnpike Authority is talking about spending less than half that on eight parcels.

"This is our last, best chance at getting a good design," says Patrice Todisco of the Boston GreenSpace Alliance. "We should not limit ourselves now."

Indeed, the designer teams that are beginning work were chosen partly on the basis of proposals that in several cases would bust the $31 budget wide open. They should not be shackled now.

Let the designs flourish. Outstanding plans may inspire the necessary funding.




Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company
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