Greenway Update: North End Nursery, Signs, Shades & Gardens

A joint meeting held this week between the Greenway Conservancy and its advisory body, the Leadership Council (GLC), reviewed a host of issues including the Urban Nursery, proposed for the North End’s Parcel 12 as well as signage and shading. Questions from the public were extensive, including several attendees looking for information regarding plans for gardens across from the Intercontinental Hotel.

The fountains are now shut off for the season and will be “blown out” before the winter to prevent freezing damage. A snow removal plan is being formulated given concerns raised from last year. The Conservancy will be using environmentally-friendly “magic salt” that works in extreme cold. The Farmers Market will operate through most of November. The Carousel served 70,000 riders this season and is expected to return next year. In February 2010, the Conservancy will present its 2010 event plans for the season.

A positive surprise this year is that the Greenway parks have not had a significant graffiti problem. Also, there has been less litter than expected. Skateboarders remain an issue, however.

A disappointment has been the “lack of lingering” in the parks which the Conservancy believes is due to a lack of signage, shading, tables and chairs. Homelessness has been increasing, although it has not been a major issue. Vivian Lee identified an area of the Chinatown park where the lack of everyday use has encouraged the homeless to takeover.

The signage proposal to “brand” the Greenway awaits funding of $120,000 – $150,000 and has a six month lead time for procurement and installation. Questions were raised regarding multiple languages on the signs as well as textured signs for the blind. The colors are expected to be brown and orange-themed on the 3 sizes of aluminum signs, including event boards. The signs will also offer handouts with Greenway information.

URBAN NURSERY – Parcel 12 (ramp parcel next to the North End parks)
After a similar presentation as shown at the October 21st GLC meeting, it was questioned why only a temporary plan is under consideration instead of a viable long-term solution. The Boston Museum has concluded that it is unable to build on the site and has moved its proposal to Parcel 9 instead. Given the tunnel support and ramp configuration constraints, it is unlikely that any developer could accomplish a feasible project.

GLC members encouraged the Conservancy Board to review the status of Parcel 12 now, not in 5 years. As expressed at the last meeting, the urban nursery does not adequately address the North End side of the parcel and there is little community support. No other options have been presented by the Conservancy, although neighbors of the parcel spent $1,500 to hire a landscape architect a few years ago.

Conservancy Board Chair Peter Meade noted that if the Boston Museum does not start building within a certain period of time, the parcel could revert back to the Conservancy. This could enable its designation as a developmental parcel to change to that of a park instead.

The urban nursery is being planned as a 5-year interim project.
The nursery’s relatively low cost of only $250,000 pales in comparison to the $3-$5 million proposals that for the Dewey Square parcels. Why is so much money being considered for those parks, with so little consideration for Parcel 12?

The Conservancy has identified 5 key areas along the Greenway that are in the direct sun for an extended period during the day.

For the North End, the options are to install a canopy on the part of the pergola that would hang down to block sunlight. The canopy could be either permanent or temporary, costing roughly $70,000 – $135,000. Tables and chairs with umbrellas are also possible for a cost of $20,000 – $30,000.

Near Central Wharf, a conceptual tent was shown next to the ring fountain similar to those seen in Denver Airport. A permanent tent would cost upwards to $400,000 while a mid-range removable one would be approximately $150,000. A simple rental tent would be $30,000.

On the park next to Rowes Wharf, tables and chairs with umbrellas were shown with umbrellas. In Chinatown, the park edges could also have umbrella tables. Vivian Lee pointed out that the Chinatown parcels are the least used and residents are not involved in the public process.

Carnival ride on the gardens during Fall Festival

GREENWAY GARDENS – PARCELS 19/21 (Abutting the Intercontinetal Hotel/Residences)
A group of residents from the Intercontinental attended the meeting noting that their condo association has now been formalized.

Residents were “aghast” at the carnival ride placed on the parks during the Fall Festival (see picture). Residents complained about no notice of what is going on regarding plans for Parcels 19 and 21.

A resident from the Intercontinental read a segment of my post from the October 21st GLC meeting relating to parcels 19 and 21, as follows:

“The Conservancy has hired Maryann Thompson Architects and landscape architect Michael van Valkenburgh. The Conservancy would like to make a “great lawn”, flattening the current sloping design and eliminating the flower beds currently on these parcels. Management cited problems with high maintenance costs, soil problems and inadequate drainage. A structure was also displayed with potential for food sales, restrooms and/or storage.”

In an unfortunate exchange, Nancy Brennan, Executive Director, said these statements were not accurate. My report was from notes taken at the previous meeting. I believe it factually summarizes the presentation, with much of the description coming directly from the Conservancy’s own slides. I asked Ms. Brennan to send me any corrections, which I have not received. The Conservancy should post the slides presented at the October 21st meeting on their website for public review.

Former volunteers from the Mass. Horticultural Society handed out pictures showing how the flowerbeds were bare in comparison to last year. They asked why the annuals were not planted this year and why there are no benches to sit on. These parcels were once identified as the “Greenway Gardens.” There was also a discussion regarding the Conservancy financials relating to the MassHort in-kind contributions.

The Conservancy profusely thanked the MassHort volunteers for their past work on the gardens, but said it did not make sense to “keep dumping plants on those parcels” because they are designated for development.