City: Art Park has high levels of lead

The Art Park site has been found to have high levels of lead and the City has prohibited access to it, according to John Feuerbach of the Department of Neighborhood Development.

But the lead is not an immediate danger to community gardeners currently using the site, and won’t stop a pending redevelopment, he said. The developers will clean up the site.

The Art Park site is City-owned land between Parker and Terrace Streets that is being redeveloped into community gardens and residential and retail space. The site currently contains the Art Park, which is an area with murals, mosaic footpath tiles and colorful furniture, and community gardens that are operated by local residents.

Feuerbach said when the City started the process to redevelop the site about two years ago, it did a “phase one” analysis, which includes going through Inspectional Services Department (ISD) records and checking the federal list of contaminated sites. But, he said, “Nothing jumped out.”

Feuerbach said the developer of the site, Sebastian Mariscal Studio, Inc. (SMS), then conducted a “phase two” analysis three months ago, which includes geo-environmental tests. He said those tests recently came back showing high levels of lead.

“Lead is a typical issue in Boston,” said Feuerbach, noting the historical use of lead-based paint.

He said when he learned of the tests results, he immediately went out to flier the area and informed abutters and community gardeners.

Feuerbach said the gardeners had taken precautions against the possibility of contamination by trucking in topsoil and loam. But the City is closing the site down until the developers clean up the site. It is fenced off.

He said the test results will not delay the project, as site remediation was factored into SMS’s plan, which was approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals last month. SMS’s plan is to redevelop the Art Park site into 44 apartments with 10 affordable-housing units, 58,000 square feet of green space and 4,000 square feet of retail space. The site will have 30 parking spaces and 82 bike-parking spaces.

The site will also have community gardens on the roof of the buildings, along with a solar-panel farm towards the Terrace Street side. It 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.

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