Petition urges hospital to save garden

April 5, 2013
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LMA—More than 5,000 people have signed a petition on change.org asking Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) to save the Prouty Garden, which the hospital wants to replace with a tower.

BCH would replace the Prouty Garden with new and expanded garden spaces and would build a meditation space for patients and their families on the top floor of the new tower.

The Gazette first learned of the petition from an anonymous letter to the paper.

Under BCH’s Institutional Master Plan (IMP), which was filed with the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) in October, the Prouty Garden would be replaced with a new clinical building at the corner of Shattuck Street and Meadow Lane on BCH’s main campus. An IMP is a comprehensive development plan that describes an institution’s existing facilities, long-range planning goals and proposed projects.

The petition is posted on change.org by Anne Gamble from Lexington. It says that the garden is a “spiritual refreshment” for those people hospitalized or for the employees working long shifts.

“We do not have to choose between hospital expansion and the garden. Let’s pursue other architectural options and save the Prouty Garden’s beauty, healing and heritage. It is priceless,” the petition states.

But BCH is saying no decisions have been made regarding changes to the garden. The IMP has to be approved by the BRA. BCH could decide afterwards not to go forth with the project.

“We appreciate the affection our patients, families and staff have for the Prouty Garden. In the future, if any changes to the garden are made, new outdoor space will be created to carry on our tradition of having peaceful outside space available to our patients,” BCH spokesperson Rob Graham said in an email to the Gazette.

The new space would include the creation of the Bader Garden, which would be an indoor/outdoor space next to the clinical building. A three-level, year-round garden would also be built as part of the project, along with a spiritual and meditation space on the top floor of the clinical building. A rooftop terrace for patients would be included with the project.

Two expansions would take place: one at the Berenberg Garden, which is next BCH’s main building, and the other at a playground on the Fegan terrace, which is behind the Fegan building.

Graham attached an Aug. 3,2012 letter from BCH CEO James Mandell to staff, employees and volunteers in response to concerns about the garden. In that letter, Mandell said BCH has looked at every possible scenario about where to locate the new clinical building. He said with constrained space on campus, the Prouty Garden space is a viable option.

Mandell noted that the IMP has to go through a public review by the BRA before it is approved.

“At the end of that process, we will visit the individual projects within the overall economic and health care market and attempt to make a realistic forecast into the future to determine if we should proceed,” Mandell stated in the letter.

According to the Massachusetts Horticultural Society website, the garden was a gift from Olive Higgins Prouty, a local author, and opened in 1956. It is described as a “small pocket garden” and as a “quiet oasis” located behind BCH’s main building. The garden, designed by the Olmsted Brothers landscape firm, is modeled after the terrace and garden at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

It is unclear if any change to the garden would have to be reviewed by the Boston Landmarks Commission.

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