Category: Community News

DCR Unveils Final Design for Esplanade Riverfront Pavilion

By Beacon Hill Times Staff

By Dan Murphy

The Department of Conservation and Recreation and its development team unveiled the design for the proposed Esplanade Riverfront Pavilion at the third and final public meeting on the matter at the State Transportation Building Wednesday while proposing a unique, public-private partnership for underwriting the project.

Watertown-based architect Maryann Thompson said the first level of the two-story building would accommodate office space for Hill House and other partnering organizations while the second story would feature a “multi-purpose” space that could accommodate various sports, theatre and other programming.

An outdoor space on the building’s second floor, which Thompson described as a “giant New England-style porch,” would provide terraced landscaping that would allow for seating, and could accommodate shuffleboard and other activities, as well as offer unobstructed views of the Charles River.

Sitting atop the second level would be a “green-roof” that would also be occupiable, Thompson said.

DCR Commissioner Leo Roy said since the project presently has no funding, the state would issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking an entity or entities to enter into a 10-agreemnt to finance construction of the building and eventually operate it. The RFP is expected to go out for bidding next month, with responses due in February of next year. Afterwards, Roy anticipates at least a two-year construction process.

Roy expects the annual budget of operating the facility would be between $750,000 and $1 million, and that it would be made available for private, special events to help underwrite this cost.

State Rep. Jay Livingstone said, “The project has evolved tremendously. It’s great to see all the public comments and viewpoints come together, and I think it’s going to be great.”

Duane Lucca, a project stakeholder and representative for the West End Museum, said he hoped that the pavilion wouldn’t be “controlled by a small contingent of groups, but rather open to the wide community.”

Meanwhile, Thompson said the development team had conceived three concepts for repurposing the Upper Gates Lock House on the Esplanade, all of which would “keep the fabric of the building.”

One option involved a year-round “interpretive center”; a café with outdoor seating that would be open in the spring, summer and fall; and a space for Nordic ski-rentals during the winter months, she said.

Public comments on the pavilion are due on Friday, Nov. 17, and can be submitted online to http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/public-outreach/submit-public- comments/ or
in writing to the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Office of Public Outreach, 251 Causeway St., sixth floor, Boston, MA 02114.

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Esplanade Association Names Michael Nichols Executive Director

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The Board of Directors for the non-profit Esplanade Association today announced the unanimous selection of Michael J. Nichols, of Boston, as the organization’s Executive Director. Nichols, an experienced public servant, attorney, and non-profit professional will begin at the Esplanade Association on November 29.

Nichols joins the Esplanade Association after three years at the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, serving the last 2.5 years as Chief of Staff. At the Greenway, Nichols was responsible for the Conservancy’s community and government affairs, external communications, and advancing strategic priorities. Under his leadership, the Conservancy negotiated a landmark public-private funding agreement, opened Boston’s first fully open-air beer garden, launched the organization’s signature young professional fundraising event, significantly grew earned revenue with innovative activities, and initiated numerous partnerships with other leading Boston institutions for in-park events.

“Michael has proven strategic leadership experience in communicating the value of a public/private partnership to care for – and activate – an urban public park,” said Alexi Conine, Chair of the Esplanade Association Board. “We were impressed with his passion, broad skillset, and record of success in mission-focused government and non-profit work. He will help fulfill the Association’s goal of making the Esplanade an innovative, sustainably-maintained recreational destination and cultural asset. We’re thrilled to have Michael join us.”

The Esplanade Association is the 100% privately funded friends group dedicated to stewardship and improvement of the Charles River Esplanade in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Since the organization’s founding in 2001, the Esplanade Association has raised over $14 million which has funded new Park amenities, restored Park assets and infrastructure, improved horticultural offerings, initiated new programs and public art, managed a robust volunteer program, and made key improvements to the three-mile stretch of waterfront park.

“The Charles River Esplanade is a jewel of Boston parks and I couldn’t be more excited about being named Executive Director of the Esplanade Association to continue the organization’s transformative work,” said Michael J. Nichols. “The Park already has a fantastic mix of signature events and regular activities in addition to its status as Boston’s most peaceful respite from city life. I look forward to working with the Association’s Board, the dedicated EA staff, our partners at DCR, and the Park’s many stakeholders to revitalize and enhance this signature public space.”

“The Esplanade Association plays a key role in supporting the ongoing maintenance, care, and improvement of the Charles River Esplanade,” offered State Representative Jay Livingstone. “I look forward to working with Michael Nichols to ensure the continued strength of this important public/private partnership.”

Nichols, who received both his bachelor’s degree and law degree from the University of Connecticut, began his career in public service as Chief of Staff and Legal Counsel to two state representatives in the Massachusetts Legislature, specializing in public finance and community development. He later served as Research & Policy Director to the full 13-member Boston City Council.

About the Esplanade Association (esplanadeassociation.org)

The Esplanade Association is a privately funded nonprofit organization that works to revitalize and enhance the Charles River Esplanade, sustain the natural green space, and build community by providing educational, cultural, and recreational programs for everyone. Working in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Esplanade Association is dedicated to improving the experiences of the millions of visitors who enjoy Boston’s iconic riverside green space.

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ABCD’s North End/West End Neighborhood Service Center Buona Sera

ABCD’s North End/West End Neighborhood Service Center (NE/WE NSC) fundraising celebration, Buona Sera: An Evening with Friends, raised nearly $50,000 to aid low-income and elderly residents of the North End and West End who turn to the center for assistance.

For the fifth year in a row, Ron Della Chiesa of WGBH and the Boston Symphony Orchestra performed as the event’s master of ceremonies. He played a few lines from “God Bless the Child” by Billie Holiday:

God bless’ the child,
That’s got his own
Yes the strong seem to get more
While the weak ones fade

Empty pockets don’t

The words are true, and he attested how ABCD takes care of all “children”, its seniors, families, and children – and that its vital human and educational services take care of all who seek assistance from the organization, ensuring that they do not fade away.

ABCD President/CEO John J. Drew continued in that realm with his own rousing deliverance. “There is no cash register at ABCD,” he declared.  “Our customers, our clients, do not pay. Each year ABCD serves over 100,000 low-income individuals from Boston – starting with nearly 3,000 in Head Start and Early Head Start all the way up to nearly 14,000 seniors, and many Adult Basic Education (ABE) services and job training and supportive services in between. All funds raised support these critical programs.”

“This year, not to mention these past few days, has been filled with tragic events of violence, neglect, natural disasters, political dividedness and, even surrounded by all these negative events, there are still people willing to stand up and help their fellow man.

It warms me, my board and staff to see you all here, who are people who support our cause; who give back; who volunteer; and who care about and respect others who are less fortunate. We thank you for being part of our work that we carry out each day in our agency, ” Maria Stella Gulla, NSC Director, enthused.

“Back for the 7th year! My clients and I have never enjoyed an event more. Every year we aim to try a new restaurant with a different celebrity guest. What more could you ask for, all while helping the NE/WE NSC get ready to kick off the holiday season to provide turkeys, toys, and nourishing meals for their clients!” one dinner guest raved.

The Buona Sera evening commenced with a wine reception at WilmerHale on the 26th floor of 60 State Street, followed by dinner at a table for 10 at one of several premiere North End restaurants. Each table was paired with a local celebrity – an elected or public official, sports figure, media celebrity or other well-known local personality. All who participated enjoyed a perfect fall evening (with a final hint of summer breeze) on the town, along with sparkling conversation with their celebrity host!

NSC Director Maria Stella Gulla, who grew up in the North End, noted that “since 2011 this innovative event has raised nearly $250,000 for educational and recreational programs and human services that the center offers. Here in our neighborhoods, we have hundreds of seniors who have lived in the North End since their childhood or in the case of the West End, are thrilled to come back after having neighborhood development forced their eviction in the 1950s. In both communities, we see seniors well into their 80s, 90s, and beyond.”

“Seniors and families come to our two food pantries and our hot meals; we help them access benefits and get needed healthcare. We provide translation services and fuel assistance and many other services. The funds we raise through Buona Sera are critical to keeping these services going and to launching new programs. We are on the brink of launching a van service to address the transportation needs of low-income seniors, who cannot travel between the North End and West End neighborhoods due to their physical health; construction projects; and lack of public transportation. Bay Cove Human Services (Kit Clark) will provide a weekly nine-passenger van, and we will start with transportation from the Amy Lowell and Blackstone Apartments, and gradually add North End housing sites. We have also revived exercise classes and the fall prevention program.”

“Italian Heritage Month remains the perfect time to hold Buona Sera,” said Johannah Malone, Event Coordinator and Fundraising Specialist for the NE/WE NSC. “This event exceeded our expectations, thanks in a significant part to our Fundraising Chair, Becky Mattson, Project Executive of Cottonwood Management, LLC. Over the past year, we have brought a lot of new donors and friends into the important work that we carry out in the agency and I am excited about sending them our center’s monthly newsletter. I encourage anyone who is interested to email me at johannah.malone@bostonabcd.org to join our fundraising committee. It really is a high profile event, and committee members enjoy the time spent in organizing and recruitment! Hosting the event at the same site each year cuts down on a lot of the long-term planning and details, as we are mindful of everyone’s time commitment and availability.”

We at the ABCD NE/WE NSC thank our 2017 donors for the event, some who go back seven years, and others who were “new to the table”, literally and figuratively!

We also thank our Celebrity Hosts:

Honorary Host City Councilor At-Large Ayanna Pressley; Master of Ceremonies WBGH and BSO’s Ron Della Chiesa; Senator Joe Boncore; Senator Sal DiDomenico; Representative Aaron Michlewitz; Representative Jay Livingstone; City Councilor-At-Large Annissa Essaibi-George; Boston Police Commissioner Bill Evans; Chief of Staff Heather Campisano, Boston Planning and Development Agency; Director of Development Review Jonathan Greeley, Boston Planning and Development Agency; Journalist/Television Personality Janet Wu; Chef and Owner Dare to Taste Jen Royle; Kahleil Blair “Maverick” JAM’N 94.5; and President and Founder of the Anthem Group, Chris Sinclair.  Guest of honor was City Council Vice President Sal La Mattina, who is leaving the position after 30 years of service!

ABCD’s Buona Sera wouldn’t be possible without our generous Restaurant Hosts:

Antico Forno, Artu Rosticceria and Trattoria, Asaggio, Boston Sail Loft, Cantina Italiana, La Famiglia Giorgio’s, Massimino’s Cucina Italiana, Prezza, Ristorante Euno, Ristorante Fiore, Ristorante Saraceno, and Terramia Ristorante.

Special appreciation also goes out to Wine Reception sponsors WilmerHale for hosting the reception and to Whole Foods Market for supporting expenses with a generous gift card; local North End merchants Cirace Liquors for generously donating the wine.

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MASSDOT Reminder: Longfellow Bridge Closures and Shuttles Replace Red Line Trains between Park Street and Kendall/MIT over a Series of Weekends Beginning September 29

Reminder: Longfellow Bridge Closures and Shuttles Replace Red Line Trains between
Park Street and Kendall/MIT over a Series of Weekends Beginning September 29

Bridge Access Maintained for Bus Shuttles, Emergency Vehicles,
Bicyclists and Pedestrians

Project work is weather dependent

Due to the Longfellow Bridge Rehabilitation Project, shuttle buses will replace Red Line trains in both directions between Park Street and Kendall/MIT Stations, with a stop at Charles/MGH Station, on weekends beginning Saturday, September 30, through Sunday, December 17. The bus route and stops are shown on this map.

The Longfellow Bridge will also be closed to all private and commercial vehicular traffic on these weekends when work is taking place, with access maintained for bus shuttles, emergency vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians. The bridge will reopen to inbound vehicles and Red Line trains for Columbus Day beginning at 4:30 AM on Monday, October 9.The bridge is currently scheduled to be open and Red Line trains will be in use for the Head of the Charles weekend (October 21-22) and Thanksgiving weekend (November 25-26). 

On each weekend, bus shuttles will be used from the start of service each Saturday to the end of service each Sunday, and the Longfellow Bridge will be closed to all vehicular traffic from 11:00 PM each Friday to 5:00 AM the following Monday.

Bus shuttles and emergency responders will be the only motor vehicles permitted on the bridge. Bicyclists, both inbound and outbound, and pedestrians will use the shared upstream sidewalk during the work. All other motor vehicles, including passenger vehicles and trucks, will need to use one of two Boston-bound routes to reach Charles River Dam Road (Monsignor O’Brien Highway/Route 28) and Leverett Circle.

Inbound Detour Routes: Height restrictions are in place for Memorial Drive, so all buses and trucks must use the 3rd Street to Binney Street detour described below.

  • From Main Street, turn right onto Memorial Drive westbound, and make a U-turn at Ames Street to access Memorial Drive eastbound. Follow Memorial Drive eastbound to Land Boulevard and turn right onto Charles River Dam Road (Monsignor O’Brien Highway/Route 28) to reach Leverett Circle.
  • From Broadway, turn left onto 3rd Street, turn right on Binney Street, turn left onto Land Boulevard, and then turn right onto Charles River Dam Road (Monsignor O’Brien Highway/Route 28) to reach Leverett Circle.

The Cambridge-bound detour remains in place using a signed route from Charles Circle following Charles Street to Leverett Circle, Monsignor O’Brien Highway/Charles River Dam Road, and Edwin H. Land Boulevard.

During these weekends, elements below the Red Line’s right of way will be replaced, which requires the removal and replacement of all Red Line track systems near Charles/MGH Station. The replacement of the track may also require some speed restrictions in this area of the Red Line for the days immediately following each weekend.

For more information on the project, visit the website at www.mass.gov/massdot/longfellowbridge. View construction progress photos on MassDOT’s Longfellow Bridge Flickr Album. For questions or to report issues related to construction, please call the project hotline at 617-519-9892 or email longfellowbridge@state.ma.us.

MassDOT encourages drivers to avoid the area and seek alternate routes to minimize delays. Those traveling through the area should expect delays, reduce speed, and use caution. The schedule for this major infrastructure project is weather dependent and subject to change without notice

 

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Galvin says New Shadow Law Removes Layer of Protection for Historic Parks

By Beth Treffeisen

Gov. Charlie Baker recently signed a home-rule petition into law that would allow Millennium Partners to move forward with building a 775-foot tower on the site of the city-owned Winthrop Square Garage, bypassing two existing state laws that protect the Boston Common and Public Garden from new shadows.

Mayor Martin Walsh introduced this bill last April for a “one-time” exemption to the state shadow laws, citing the reported $153 million sale of the property would bring to the city. The Boston City Council approved sending the bill to the State House in a 10 – 3 vote.

 

“The bill passed removed a layer of protection for historic sites but it doesn’t mean the project is exempt from other processes,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin. “Millennium wouldn’t be able to build this building without that exemption but it’s still fuzzy on how it’s going to go moving forward.”

Galvin said that although this project skirts around the 25-year-old state shadow laws that have shielded the downtown historic parks from excessive building shadows, there is still more to be done.

The project, which is set to break ground next year, is still under going the Article 80 process with the City, has yet to complete the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) report, and still needs to gain the approval of the Federal Aviation Administration before it can reach its proposed height.

In addition Galvin said there hasn’t been a wind study or a complete shadow study that goes beyond the downtown parks into the surrounding historic neighborhoods.

“The process is going to go on,” said Galvin. “A layer of protection has been removed, but the building is not exempt from the process.”

As part of the MEPA report, Galvin who is the Chair of the Massachusetts Historical Commission will work towards determining the effect the proposed tower will have on historic buildings and sites downtown.

Galvin said that although the bill may have taken away a layer of protection for the Public Garden and the Common there are other buildings and historic architecture that needs protection as well.

“I look forward to continuing to work with Mayor Walsh, the Friends of the Public Garden and other stakeholders on the short-term and the long-term improvements to the Boston Common that are possible because of our collaborative efforts,” said State Rep. Jay Livingstone.

 

The Friends of the Public Garden worked with the developers Millennium Partners to come to agreement that would invest $125,000 a year for 40 years towards a fund for the upkeep of the Common, Public Garden and Commonwealth Avenue Mall.

 

The Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB) said that this is not the outcome they had hoped for but understand that the City said that this is a one-time exemption and offered further study and protections for the Boston Common, the Public Garden, and the Commonwealth Avenue Mall from development and its subsequent impacts from mid-town.

Vicki Smith the executive director of NABB said that the neighborhood association would continue to request shadow studies and wind studies on new development in the Back Bay that negatively affect Copley Square and the Commonwealth Avenue Mall.

“Given the dramatic number of new buildings under construction and consideration it is more important than ever to protect and preserve our increasingly used green spaces,” wrote Smith. “They are precious and significantly contribute to what makes the Back Bay so attractive to both residents and visitors.”

She continued, “On any given day virtually year round, there are people from all over Boston and the world in Copley Square and on the Mall. NABB will continue to advocate for the protection and enhancement of these iconic spaces for future generations.”

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