With a larger $2 million budget, the Boston Parks & Recreation Department held a second and final community meeting to discuss restoration of the Prado / Paul Revere Mall on October 19, 2017. As the iconic North End open space on the Freedom Trail, the Prado is getting a complete overhaul with nearly every inch being replaced. However, the original “Arthur Shurcliff” design and features will remain the same, using new red bricks and bluestone materials.
After feedback from the first meeting in Spring 2017, Project Manager Allison Perlman explained they boosted the original $1.3 million budget to $2.0 million through a $700,000 White Fund contribution to support the City funding. Bids for constriction will go out this winter in anticipation for a Spring / Summer 2018 start date.
“We intend to repair everything in the Prado,” said landscape architect Kyle Zick who also designed the recently completed Rachel Revere Square Park. Key priorities include drainage improvements along with accessibility. The fountain plumbing will be repaired and the trees will receive a pruning along with a better way to gain nutrients. Lighting the dark areas is also identified as necessity.
Park access will be improved through handicap ramps and removing tripping hazards. The bricks will be replaced with a similar, but smoother wirecut red brick. The stone patterns will remain and incorporate a more durable bluestone variety originally intended by Shurcliff. The NEMPAC building will also be made accessible.
The 44 Linden trees will remain in place and each received an individual assessment by the city horticulturist. There is only one dead tree and one missing, but they all need pruning. Interestingly, a high salt content was measured. The dead/missing trees will be replaced and all will be pruned to be kept tall and skinny.
The Freedom Trail path was presented with options to have the line stay near the center or to shift it toward the side so visitors see the historic copper plaques on the South walls. Residents in attendance liked moving it to the side, closer to the plaques.
Park visibility will be dramatically improved through new lighting especially around the fountain and periphery areas. The new lights will be lower than the tree canopy. Also, accent lighting was presented for the Paul Revere statue with additional repairs to the existing fountain lights.
New electrical infrastructure will be set underground near the fountain area for NEMPAC concerts. Old North Church also requested an outlet near Unity Street.
The pros and cons of vendors on the Prado were discussed. No permits were given out this year by the City. Meeting attendees thought one t-shirt vendor was fine as long as it stayed on the side.
An extended discussion was held regarding buskers and entertainers in the Prado. Some thought the opera guy was too loud, but supported other entertainers without amplification. One performer attended the meeting, Nico (classical/jazz violin) and spoke about the positive response he receives to music that fits the historic venue. City park designers are not in direct control of the buskers. Buskers have 1st amendment rights to freedom of expression and the city has limited recourse (no permits are required).
Additional table seating was seen as unnecessary, per those attending the meeting. The existing benches will be repaired but the plan is to keep the center of the Prado open walking space. Feedback was also to keep the Christmas tree in its current location in front of the statue on Hanover Street.
Other issues mentioned included dog waste bags (favored), trash barrels/recycling (favored) and bike racks (not favored). Rat control will be in place during the reconstruction.
An underground drainage system was shown including several new area drains that will treat the first inch of water. Under the Prado, designers found 4 feet of stone dust and concrete under that.
All the historic features will be repaired including the bollards, chains, benches and urns. In answer to a question, Parks Dept. will inquire about the “lost” wall plaques now on display at English High School.
The Prado will remain open during construction. No additional meetings will be held on the reconstruction. Residents can contact the Project Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments.