Art Park plans get community thumbs-up

December 13, 2013
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Sebastian Mariscal Studio, Inc. (SMS) presented its plan to redevelop the Art Park site, City-owned land between Parker and Terrace Streets, into 41 apartments and more than 50,000 square feet of green space during a Dec. 5 community meeting.

The reception was mostly positive, though there were some questions about the sale price and preserving elements from the current site. About 35 people attended the meeting at the Mission Church.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and the City’s Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) have been working together for almost two years to redevelop the Art Park site. The Art Park is an area with murals, mosaic footpath tiles and colorful furniture. The park would be dismantled, but as aforementioned, some elements might be incorporated in the redeveloped site.

SMS said that the project is expected to take 18 months to complete and cost about $13 million. But the proposal still has to undergo BRA review, including another community meeting. The City also said it will hold separate meetings to discuss the community gardens and the art features in the redeveloped site. Dates for those meetings have not been determined.

SMS’s plan for the site includes 41 apartments with 10 affordable-housing units, about 52,000 square feet of green space and 7,000 square feet of commercial space. The site will have 30 parking spaces and room to park 82 bicycles. The rents of the apartments will range from $1,800 to $3,200.

The site will have one-, two- and three-story buildings. They will be built shortest to tallest from Parker Street down the sloping topography to Terrace Street. The buildings will not be visible from Parker Street. A person standing on that street will instead see rooftop community gardens on the buildings.

The buildings will not be built in a block-type pattern, but will rather be constructed in an interspersed manner throughout the site, creating several courtyards. Those courtyards will have art elements and vegetation and will be open to the public during the day.

Besides the community gardens on the roof, there will also be a solar-panel farm towards the Terrace Street side. The site is expected to be LEED-certified platinum, which is the construction industry’s highest energy-efficient rating. The site is slated to produce more energy than it will use.

Sebastian Mariscal, owner of SMS, said he was “excited” to be part of an “unique project” and that his proposal has “a lot of void where humans and nature get together.”

“I’m honored to be part of this process,” he said.

Kathryn Brookins, a frequent critic of redeveloping the site, questioned the discount sale price the City is giving on the land. The site was valued at about $900,000, but the City put the land out to bid at a 50 percent reduced rate. SMS decided to pay more than the price tag because it said it wanted the project. It is paying $600,000.

John Feuerbach of DND said the reasoning behind the discount is four-fold: the developer will be responsible for a community garden; the site has to be highly energy-efficient; there has to be intense site work, including environmental cleanup; and the project has to undergo a DND design review.

Francie Hauck, who gardens at the site with her husband and son, asked that elements from the current Art Park, such as the gazebo, be preserved and used in the redeveloped site. SMS wholeheartedly agreed to do just that.

Other attendees asked about traffic calming measures on Terrace Street and preserving trees on the site. The City and the developer said they would look into those concerns.

An initial rendering of the redevelopment of the Art Park site. (Courtesy Illustration)

An initial rendering of the redevelopment of the Art Park site. (Courtesy Illustration)

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