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Greenway Conservancy plans for Boston-themed carousel

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  May 23, 2011 01:06 PM

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Carousel Site on Greenway.jpg

(Reed Hilderbrand Inc./Utile Inc./Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy)

The permanent carousel will be placed slightly north of the temporary carousel’s current location, adjacent to the new Harbor Islands Pavilion and surrounded by a variety of local attractions.

Planners at the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy envision replacing the temporary, rented carousel in the parcel between Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Christopher Columbus Park with a custom-designed carousel and tree-shaded seating for visitors.

In the works since late 2010, the plan calls for shifting the location of the new carousel slightly north of where the temporary one now sits, allowing the broad promenade from the Faneuil Hall side of the park to continue between the carousel and the soon-to-open Harbor Islands Pavilion on the southern end of the lot. The northern end of the lot will be re-landscaped with shade trees and groupings of tables and chairs where parents and other visitors can gather alongside the new carousel.

At a recent public meeting at the conservancy’s headquarters, Linda Jonash, director of planning and design for the conservancy, presented an update on the developing plan.

Rather than having the prancing horses typical of most carousels, the permanent greenway carousel will have an array of animals native to the Boston area, with the selection heavily influenced by children from four local elementary schools. All the animals will be original creations designed by Newburyport-based sculptor Jeffrey Briggs based on the children’s suggestions.

Jonash said the carousel would be “very much of Boston and talking about the greenway, the harbor, the land-sea-air connection in that area. So the inspiration is really children’s ideas, but it’s characters they’re familiar with and that are of the Boston area.”

The selections, to be made from fiberglass rather than wood for durability, include sea creatures like lobster, cod, whales and the New England Aquarium’s famous Myrtle the turtle; land animals including a fox and a grasshopper; and flying creatures from butterflies to peregrine falcons. It will also be one of few carousels in the area to provide a chariot that meets Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility standards.

The proposed redesign takes into account requests by visitors that more shade and seating be provided. And Jonash said it also takes advantage of the carousel’s “amazing location.” Besides being adjacent to the pavilion and positioned between the marketplace and the waterfront park, the carousel is just south of the parcel where an Armenian Heritage Park is currently under construction and just north of the parcel containing the Rings Fountain.

“It’s kind of a wonderful episodic [area], is how we’re treating the greenway … having quieter spaces and then activities and then quieter,” Jonash said. “Once this is completed, this is going to be a terrific space that’s improved; it’s comfortable for the public. A lot of the amenities that we’re learning were required will suddenly be there.”

To make sure the entire parcel will have a consistent aesthetic, the conservancy is working with the same landscape team from Reed Hilderbrand Inc. and architects from Utile Inc. that designed the pavilion area. And to make the carousel itself appropriate to a park rather than a carnival, the exterior will likely be decorated in neutral or natural tones that will better blend with the tree-shaded setting.

Nancy Brennan, executive director of the conservancy, said a generous donor “who wanted to do something very special for Boston’s children” had given $1.6 million to support the carousel plan. With a cost projection of $2.9 million for the entire project, the conservancy still needs to raise more than $1 million more, and has begun fundraising efforts with foundations, corporations and individuals.

The conservancy hopes to keep the carousel open each year from April school vacation week through New Year’s Eve. During the winter, they plan to keep the carousel in place and light it, but wrap it in removable glass panels to protect it from the elements. Brennan said it should generate enough revenue to not only cover its own expenses but also to help support other greenway programs.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Boston Redevelopment Authority have been involved in the planning process and have both been supportive, Jonash said, but as with any construction project of this kind, the plan will still require official approvals from the BRA and other agencies before construction can begin.

The conservancy has issued a request for proposals to find a fabricator to construct the carousel frame and mechanics, and it anticipates bids from four firms. A separate contractor will make site improvements. Construction of the carousel should take about 14 months, and the conservancy hopes to be ready to install it by the fall of 2012. Another community meeting is planned for this fall.

Email Jeremy C. Fox at jeremycfox@gmail.com.

Carousel Landscape Concept.jpg

(Reed Hilderbrand Inc./Utile Inc./Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy)

This elevation drawing shows the proposed design for the carousel area as it would be seen from Christopher Columbus Park looking toward Faneuil Hall Marketplace.

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