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South Boston residents continue to push for open space at vacant city-owned lot

Posted by Patrick Rosso  June 27, 2013 03:04 PM

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(Image courtesy DND)


Two possible uses for the site, presented at Wednesday's meeting.


South Boston residents were given their first look at potential uses for the city-owned property between West 1st and West 2nd Street.

Nearly 50 people filled the Condon Community School Wednesday night to discuss 16,000-square-feet vacant land at 174 West 2nd St. and 179 West 1st St.

The Department of Neighborhood Development has been working over the past few months to dispose of the land, which, excluding the one-story vacant Public Works building, is for the most part open.

At Wednesday’s meeting and those in the past, a majority of residents have pushed for an open/green space use of the property, something many said the neighborhood severely lacks.

“We’re running out of places to just have green space,” John Molloy, a South Boston resident, said Wednesday night. “We need a park because the other side of [West] 1st Street is going to be developed.”

A 2008 report published by the Urban Ecology Institute, found that South Boston had the third-lowest tree cover in the city. The report took into account all trees within the community, including those in parks, private yards, and along the street.

In the city's 2002-2006 and 2008-2014 Open Space Plans, the St. Vincent's Neighborhood, the area around the parcel, was highlighted because of its lack of open space.

"On a smaller scale, the residential St. Vincent neighborhood and Andrew Square remain relatively undeserved with only a few pocket parks in the vicinity," read the 2008-2014 plan.

At Wednesday's meeting, DND representatives presented three draft uses for the property: 100-percent open space with two-thirds being community gardens, 75-percent open space with “low-density” residential use, and 100 percent open space with an underground parking component.

Although many welcomed the idea of a 100-percent open space use, some pushed back against the majority of the space being community gardens.

“I support community gardens, but I have problems with two-thirds of the space being community gardens because only a few people would benefit,” explained Gary Murad, vice president of the St. Vincent’s Lower End Neighborhood Association.

“This whole conversation started because people wanted open space,” said Steve Martin, an area resident. “I want a place to meet my neighbors.”

Others though welcomed the community garden component, saying like parks, gardens help build community.

“[Community gardens] are a great way to engage your neighbors,” said Phoebe Flemming, an area resident and coordinator with South Boston Grows.

Although all the plans presented Wednesday were drafts, Sheila Dillon, chief and director of DND, said there was an emphasis on community gardens because there is money available for their construction through Community Block Grants.

“This was a way to obtain feasibility and keep the site open space,” explained Dillon.

Feasibility was the topic of the night as Dillon laid out the financial state of the project. Dillon said she has been working with the Parks Department and was told there is no money in this year’s budget to build a park, nor does the department have the funds to maintain such a large parcel.

“What I heard from Parks is what they don’t have is operational funds,” she added.

The two other ideas, the low-density and open space option and the open space with underground parking option, were presented as possibilities if the right developer could be found.

With the underground parking option vehicles would park in a garage under what would be a park, developed by the garage’s developer/owner. The parking spaces could potentially be sold or leased.

“We looked at the appraised value [of the parking] and talked to developers and we’re not sure they're feasible, but we’re not against it,” Dillon said.

The third option would mean the land would either be sold or transferred to a developer who would then use part of the property for housing and would also be tasked with constructing a new park and maintaining it.

The low-density housing option was the least favorite of the three presented Wednesday to residents, with many continuing the push for 100-percent open space, saying that if money isn’t available now why not wait.

“What’s the rush?” Murad said. “The Convention Center is expanding and this is an ideal parcel for it to provide open space. It has the money and they are going to be spending it in South Boston.”

Another meeting is expected to be held in either late July or early September. Draft language for a Request for Proposal or Request for Information is expected to be presented at the next meeting.

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(Image courtesy DND)


The low-density residential and open space draft.

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(Image courtesy DND)


The 100-percent green/open space draft.


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Email Patrick D. Rosso, patrick.d.rosso@gmail.com. Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.


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