By Beth Treffeisen
Special to the Gazette
Mayor Martin Walsh joined Northeastern University President Joseph E. Aoun and local community members to kick off the transformation of the William E. Carter Playground at a groundbreaking ceremony on June 13.
In a unique public-private partnership, Northeastern University and the City of Boston will build a state-of-the-art athletic complex that will expand recreation opportunities for both Boston residents and Northeastern students.
The shared public park, the first in Boston to be named for an African-American solider, is a hub of community and youth sports activity in the city’s South End and Roxbury neighborhoods.
“It’s going to benefit some of the Northeastern students, which it should, its also going to benefit our kids, which it should but, when I think of Northeastern students I think of them all as our kids because we are one city,” said Mayor Martin Walsh. “This park truly is a park that will be used by all residents of the City of Boston.”
The construction is going to take around 11 months to complete and the park is expected to open sometime early next year.
Northeastern will invest more than $26 million to transform the City-owned William E. Carter Playground on Columbus Avenue. An operations and maintenance agreement that puts the bill on Northeastern to maintain the park will last 30 years.
“We have a responsibility here at Northeastern,” said President Aoun. “The [Boston Parks] Commissioner said you’re going to mow the lawn but we’re going to be doing more than just mowing the law Commissioner.”
He continued, “We’re are going to create a path for the students, for the young minds from both schools and from all of the community to look at educational opportunities. This playground is an access playground. In order for the community to see that education is a ticket and that is why we are here.”
The Northeastern parking lot that runs along the rear of the park is going to be donated during the renovations, adding about 35 percent more parkland according to John Tobin, the vice president of city and community affairs at Northeastern University.
The tot lot will also be relocated to the front of the park so that more community members can have access to it. The tot lot will also feature elements that students from the nearby Carter School, a Boston public school that serves students with intensive disabilities and complex health needs, can use and enjoy.
Tobin said that there is also going to be a seasonal bubble that will be able to cover one of the fields to allow the park to remain active even during the colder winter months.
“Carter Playground has been in disrepair for quite some time and we worked really hard over the last several years to make this happen,” said Tobin at a Northeastern Task Force meeting.
Tobin said that it took so long to move forward because the university and the City needed to get a final sign off by the National Park Service. Years ago, he said, the National Park Service donated some money towards the park, and ever since, they now have jurisdiction over it.
“The partnership is pretty much inappropriate at this point and it really is a slog,” said Tobin. “It should be done by now.”
The City of Boston will continue to own the park. The permitting process will remain the same, so whether the group is from Northeastern or from the neighborhood, both will still have to get the proper permitting from the City.
“I think what Northeastern is going to build here today in partnership with the City of Boston is an example how you can excel beyond your commitments to have a true partnership and something that really resonates with the community,” said Chris Cook the Boston Parks Commissioner. “We couldn’t be more grateful of this partnership.”