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ALLSTON

A strip of green for Lincoln Street

An artist's rendition of what the western end of the Lincoln Green Strip will look like after the meadow fills in. An artist's rendition of what the western end of the Lincoln Green Strip will look like after the meadow fills in. (LEGGE LEWIS LEGGE)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Andreae Downs
Globe Correspondent / April 13, 2008

A wilderness of trash, ailanthus, and Norway maple saplings near St. Anthony's parish in Allston will sprout steel ornaments and planters later this spring.

Touted as a gateway to a largely residential crescent in North Allston, the Lincoln Street Green Strip will become a "hybrid urban meadow," according to Andrea Legge, a member of the three-artist team Legge Lewis Legge that designed the renovation.

Last week, landscapers began taking down a chain-link fence and digging out weed trees, leaving wild grasses and flowers to proliferate on the 40-foot-wide by 400-foot-long strip, which runs between Lincoln Street at about Mansfield and a pedestrian bridge over the Mass. Pike to Cambridge Street.

Total cost of the project is $220,000, according to Ava Chan, community organizer for the Allston Brighton Community Development Corp., which is handling Department of Neighborhood Development and foundation funds for the meadow.

Neighborhood activist Harry Mattison first brought attention to the strip in 2005 after getting his spokes snagged while biking the ramp from Lincoln to the bridge. At first, he brought his own clippers and did some cleaning up, according to Chan. But he realized it needed more "recognition and care," she said.

"It's a metaphorical gateway," Chan said, noting that the retailers and traffic along Cambridge Street were a stark contrast to the quiet residential streets just north of Lincoln.

Legge also touted Mattison's role. "Harry's why we're all here," she said. "He started the whole thing."

Legge, her brother, and his wife designed a similar, permanent landscape installation near a police station in Austin, Texas, where Murray Legge and Deborah E. Lewis are based. Andrea Legge lives in Manhattan.

"We try to make work that will change," Legge said. This installation, whose shapes were inspired by European folly gardens, will feature weathering steel sculptures that will be installed next month. Over the next year, a protective patina of rust will form on the surface of these abstract shapes. Then the meadow will take a few seasons to fill in, she said, making it "an exercise in patience."

Legge Lewis Legge was chosen in January 2006 as winner of the New England Arts Foundation competition to design the space with community members. But the initial design had to be scaled back after attempts to secure more private funding failed, Chan said. The final design was approved by the Boston Arts Commission in October 2007, and has been on hold until warmer weather allowed construction to start.

It will be the CDC's responsibility to maintain the site for the next 20 years, Chan said.

Mattison is looking forward to the new landscape.

"It should go from a litter-strewn patch of weeds to something that looks pretty nice," he said. The bridge "is heavily used now. I think people will enjoy the change."

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