Art Park sketch puts houses on Parker St.

June 1, 2012
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The City has presented a rough design of the city-owned land between Parker and Terrace streets that places houses where community gardens and the Art Park currently are. The sketch received mixed reviews from the public at a recent community meeting.

The May 23 meeting at Mission Church was the second of several that will help the City create a request for proposals (RFP). The City expects to hold two more meetings—one this month and another in July—before issuing the RFP in August. The exact dates of the meetings have not been determined.

The site, which will be a “green building” project, was land the City acquired through tax foreclosure and was unsuccessful at redeveloping before. The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) are working together to redevelop the site.

At the start of the meeting, John Dalzell, a senior architect at the BRA, tried to clear away suspicion of the City, reassuring the audience that the City does not have any developer lined up. He said the City is attempting to build “green” buildings at the site that incorporate the community gardens and Art Park.

“This is what we are about,” said Dalzell. “We don’t have a secret plan.”

City officials said that the rough design they presented is not a proposal, but just a jumping-off point.

The design has a walking path snaking from Parker Street through the site to Terrace Street. The path would have art elements to it, and gardens would be interspersed along the path. Homes would be built along Parker Street, where community gardens and the Art Park currently are.

“You can’t grow your vegetables here. This is a joke,” Garrett Hauck, who gardens at the site with his mother and father, said about the rough design because the gardens would be too small and lack security.

Dalzell said he disagreed and felt that it would be manageable.

Joe Barry, a Mission Hill resident, expressed concern that the site might become a territorial problem.

“If I had a house there, I would feel entitled to the green space more than other people in the neighborhood,” he said.

John Hauck, Garrett’s father, recalled at the last meeting that they had discussed keeping the Art Park and community garden intact.

David West of the DND replied he heard during one of the community meetings a desire for homes to be built along Parker Street. One man attending the meeting, who did not wish to divulge his name, said he would like to see that happen.

“It seems like the whole stretch has been vacant for a while,” he said. “I think a little more structure can bring more cohesiveness to the neighborhood.”

Other attendees pointed to the possible contamination of the Terrace Street parcel. Joe Barry, father of the aforementioned Joe Barry, said the site has had many different businesses, including a brewery, machine factory and tire factory. He said about 30 years ago, a fire raged for a week underground because of waste from the machine factory.

“Nobody has done anything [to clean it up] to my knowledge,” said Barry. “That site was fully contaminated 30 years ago.”

City officials assured the audience that the area would be environmentally safe by the time construction began.

There were also concerns about the impact on traffic that the site would have. People mentioned that the Fenway High School moving to the Mission Hill K-8 and New Mission building on Alleghany Street and a proposed nine-unit condominium on the corner of Alleghany and Parker Street would already make the surrounding roads congested.

Two other topics discussed were making sure there would be enough of a buffer zone between houses on Alleghany Street and any structure built on the site, and improving safety in the area. Some people said currently there are suspicious people who visit the Art Park from time to time.

The May 23 meeting was not publicized on either the BRA or DND website. The Gazette only learned of the meeting by placing a call to the DND. BRA spokesperson Melina Schuler said it was an oversight that the meeting was not listed on the BRA website, but said emails were sent out from a list collected from earlier community meetings informing people of the meeting.

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