Critics blast Art Park plan at final meeting

November 2, 2012
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Opposition to the request for proposal guidelines for the City-owned land between Parker and Terrace Streets erupted during a community meeting on Oct. 11. About 15 people attended the meeting at Mission Church.

Critics of the plan to build residential units along Parker Street were much more vocal than at previous meetings. Several of them participate in a community garden currently there. They said the City has given the appearance something has to be built on the site and that the City does not have a consensus to do so.

“You gave people the impression that we have to have something built there,” said Joe Barry, a Mission Hill resident.

City officials countered that the site is a valuable asset and the interest of the broader city community has to be taken into consideration. They said that the city has a housing shortage.

“This is a precious commodity,” said John Dalzell of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA). “I don’t think we can leave it as open space.”

City officials also revealed they will need the City Council’s approval for several of the parcels along Parker Street and are leaning towards rezoning an area along Terrace Street because it is zoned as industrial now.

The meeting was the last on the proposed guidelines, but there was a comment period that ended Oct. 18. John Feuerback of the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) said three or four comments were received during that period. He said the comments from the last meeting and during the comment period will be used to update the proposed guidelines.

The updated guidelines will then be emailed in the coming weeks to everyone that left their email address during any of the previous meetings. Feuerback said there will not be another meeting, but it is in discussion whether or not to allow comments through email on the updated guidelines.

The BRA and the DND are working together to redevelop the site, which will be a “green building” project. The City has a similar “green building” project in the works on Highland Avenue in Roxbury. Urbanica, Inc. has been picked to develop that project.

The Parker and Terrace Street site contains the Art Park, which is an area with murals, mosaic footpath tiles and colorful furniture. The park would be dismantled, but there would be art elements throughout the site along with an increased community garden.

The proposed guidelines call for 35 to 46 residential units to be built on the site with 10 to 12 units on Parker Street. The remaining units would be built along Terrace Street along with commercial space. The guidelines call for between 4,000 and 8,000 square feet of commercial space along Terrace Street.

Opponents to building voiced their displeasure from the start of the meeting and found fault with the City’s claim that it had a consensus for the project guidelines. Barry said the City shouldn’t go to the City Council and tell it that the City has a consensus for the project.

“You are wrong about people’s opinion,” he said.

There was a back-and-forth argument over whether or not to take a vote on the proposal to build housing along Parker Street. City officials tried to put the vote off, but after significant opposition, they relented. The vote was 10 against building and 4 for it.

Dalzell said that along Parker Street is a “very desirable location for housing.” He said the site is a City asset and that there has to be a “balance of broader goals and objectives.”

One attendee, who did not want to give his name, said the City is doing a good job with the premise that they are going to build housing there regardless of how the community feels.

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