The long-awaited funding deal by Greenway stakeholders was announced on Monday with the State, City, private property owners and the Greenway Conservancy taking part in a new public-private partnership. The agreement aims to bring at least $2 million in annual funds to the Greenway, reduce the current State funding level, create a new Business Improvement District (BID) and establish a fund with proceeds from the City’s expected Winthrop Square sale. The deal is similar to that outlined in a May 5, 2017 article on NorthEndWaterfront.com. [See Greenway Funding and Lease Renewal Talks in Final Stages] The news comes before a June 30th lease expiration between the State and the Conservancy. Through its transportation arm, MassDOT, the State controls the parks that make up the ceiling of the O’Neill Tunnel.
The 10-year lease renewal by the State to the Greenway Conservancy comes with a 6-year funding commitment, but with a phased reduction from $2 million last year to $1.25 million next year and eventually down to annual funding of $750,000 per year. Over the six year commitment, the State will contribute $5.25 million to the Greenway, less than half of what it would have been at the level seen in previous years.
With the State’s reduced contribution, the funding hole will be replaced, and possibly exceeded, by new commitments from a group of abutting property owners expected to ramp to over $1 million/year with the City of Boston contributing $250,000 from interest on a $5 million fund created with Winthrop Square sale proceeds.
State Representative Aaron Michlewitz, whose district includes the Greenway, said, “Creating a long term structure for the Greenway to maintain its growth is vitally important to my district, the entire City of Boston and the Commonwealth as a whole. With this agreement we are not only acknowledging how vital the Greenway has become, but we are setting it up for future success. I thank all the parties involved for their hard work and commitment to resolving this.”
The new agreement is expected to result in at least $2 million of annual contributions in a 50/50 public/private mix. The Conservancy itself would continue its own income-generating operations (food trucks, carousel rides, etc.) and private fundraising, that currently funds 60% of its ~$5 million budget.
The multi-year deal is contingent on approval of a BID by the private partners and the Boston City Council. Also, the City’s contribution is contingent on establishing a $5 million City of Boston fund from proceeds of the sale of Winthrop Square to Millennium Partners. Those contributions will allow the State to significantly reduce its current $2 million contribution over the term of the lease renewal.
“We are proud to announce this sustainable and equitable public-private partnership to support the Greenway in collaboration with the City of Boston, the Conservancy and its abutting neighbors,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. “This arrangement will ensure a responsible and fair financial structure in which MassDOT is one of a group of funding partners supporting the Greenway’s nationally renowned parks.”
State Senator Joseph Boncore, whose district includes the Greenway, said, “The Rose Kennedy Greenway has established itself as a gem of the Commonwealth. Since its establishment, the park has been an economic boon to the district and the City of Boston as a whole. This agreement represents an equitable public-private partnership while also assuring the long-term financial stability of the park.”
The City of Boston has agreed to establish a $5 million Greenway support fund to be capitalized with anticipated proceeds from the sale of the Winthrop Square Garage. For the first time, abutting building stakeholders and city officials appear willing to make a lasting commitment to the ribbon of parks that string through downtown Boston from the North End to Chinatown.
This proposed fund requires the passage of state legislation to allow the redevelopment of 115 Federal Street to move forward and is subject to the approval of the Boston City Council. Mayor Marty Walsh added, “The Rose Kennedy Greenway is an important asset to residents and visitors alike. Whether people need a place to cool off, sit down amongst gardens, grab a bite to eat from a food truck, or just pass through on their way to the office, it’s critical that we all work together to ensure that we maintain this unique and vibrant green space for generations to come.”
A Better City will lead the effort to create a Business Improvement District (BID) providing $1 million annually to the Conservancy for basic operations, maintenance and horticulture. A Better City will determine the specific details of the BID plan, including boundary lines, a management plan, and a formula for individual contributions, taking into account all feedback from abutters. In addition, the abutter community has pledged an extra $500,000 annually for BID-directed enhancements to the Greenway, beginning in Fiscal Year 2020. This BID plan will need to be approved by the Boston City Council.
“In the spirit of commitment to the future of downtown Boston and the waterfront, A Better City is proud to take the first step in the BID process toward the goal of creating a structured and stable financing model for the Greenway,” said Richard A. Dimino, President and CEO of A Better City. “This partnership reflects the Greenway’s role as both a vibrant public space and key economic development asset by sharing responsibility among MassDOT, the City of Boston, the Conservancy, and the business community and ensuring all parties have a voice in the park’s future. As this process continues, A Better City looks forward to working with all abutting properties on this effort.”
Under the new 10-year lease, the Greenway Conservancy commits to continue to operate the Greenway as a “first-class” public park while managing current operating costs to reflect the reduction in MassDOT funding during the transition period to the new public-private partnership arrangement. “The leadership shown by all parties has put the Greenway on a firm footing,” said Conservancy Executive Director Jesse Brackenbury. “With the foundational support assured, the Conservancy can continue to deliver an exceptional public park. We now have the stability to engage philanthropists and innovative partners in continuing to improve the Greenway over the long-term.”