Gardens, students remain Art Park issues

The City’s effort to craft request for proposal guidelines for the City-owned land between Parker and Terrace streets continues. How to prevent college students from living at the site and how the community gardens would be managed were two of several issues raised at the latest community meeting.

About 25 people attended the Aug. 13 meeting at Mission Church. A community meeting originally slated for Sept. 26 has been canceled and will be rescheduled.

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.

The Art Park, which is an area with murals, mosaic footpath tiles and colorful furniture, would be dismantled, but there would be art elements throughout the site.

City Councilor Mike Ross, who represents and lives in Mission Hill, questioned the guidelines’ effectiveness on preventing college students from living in the proposed housing. He said that this is area Mission Hill “has been burned before.”

“I think this language is nice, but I would like to see it stronger,” said Ross.

He added that Mission Hill has the lowest home ownership in the city.

David West of the Department of Neighborhood Development said there are several ways the City can ensure students do not live there, including not allowing co-signers on leases or condominium fees.

“We are looking into underlying deed restrictions, implicit or explicit, that would either deny students or have a proxy for it,” said West.

Questions were also raised about the community gardens. The guidelines state that two-thirds of the proposed 12,000 square feet of community gardens, which would be up from the about 4,000 square feet currently there, would go to the local community. The remaining portion would be reserved for project residents. West said any project developer would want some plots for residents at the garden.

Francie Hauck, who gardens at the site with her husband and son, said about how the gardens are divided, “The maximum we can get, we want.”

How the community gardens would be managed was also discussed. Some people proposed a split management between a community group and the residential owners, while others said it should be under one umbrella.

“As long as it’s not the Wild West,” Hauck said about having two entities manage the gardens.

West said he wants a proposal from a community garden group about how it would manage 12,000 square feet of gardens. He said that’s a large area to deal with and he does not want to see it badly managed and have it devolve into a blighted piece of land.

Other issues discussed were increasing the commercial space on the Terrace Street side, reducing parking on the Parker Street side and whether or not to have a community orchard on the site.

Updated version: This version reflects changes in the community meeting schedule.

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