Category: Back Bay

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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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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Mayor Walsh Hosts Coffee Hour on Commonwealth Avenue Mall

July 28, 2017

By 

By Beth Treffeisen

Mayor Martin Walsh greeted residents of the Back Bay during a sunny morning on Thursday, July 20. There residents enjoyed coffee and breakfast treats provided by Dunkin’ Donuts and fresh fruit from Whole Foods Market.

In addition, participants received a flowering plant grown in the city’s greenhouses as a gift. One lucky winner got a chance to win raffle prizes from Dunkin’ Donuts.

“Coffee Hours give me another opportunity to meet with residents, answer their questions and discuss all that the City of Boston has to offer,” said Mayor Walsh. “Our parks provide a great backdrop for conversations.”

In attendance included representatives from various City departments, Boston City Councilors Josh Zakim, Annisa Essaibi-George and Michael Flaherty, State Representative Jay Livingstone, members of My Sisters Keeper, Friends of the Public Garden and the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay.

“I want to thank Friends of the Public Garden. You do some incredible work in our City – between the partnership with the Friends and the Park and Recreational Department, along with the investments made in the last few years in our parks system I think we’ve made some real good gains in our City,” said Mayor Walsh at the coffee hour. “I want to thank all of you for caring and being so invested in our parks.”

He continued, “We want to continue to make sure our park space is first class and available to all.”

Mayor Walsh pointed to various investments going towards the neighborhood from this year’s Capital Budget. This includes almost $16 million towards the rare book collection at the Boston Public Library to have the proper ability to store books and have better ventilation and fire protection.

In an effort alongside the State and Federal government, the City has also invested $18 million towards replacing the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge over Commonwealth Avenue, which is currently under construction now.

In addition, $3.5 million is going towards reconstructing the sidewalks and plaza around the Boston Common on Tremont Street, $1.5 million towards redoing the pathways in the Public Garden, a little over $1 million towards the Public Garden Lagoon and $2.2 million towards construction of new sidewalks and streetscape along Boylston Street.

“I live a few blocks away and this does feel like my front yard and I know it does to many of you as well,” said Zakim. “It’s so important that we continue making those investments and continue having that support and continue making this City be an even better place to live in. I thank you all for your activism and coming out here this morning.”

Mayor Walsh also pointed towards the Build BPS program that was launched this year. As part of the program major investments will be going towards new buildings and transforming schools around Boston. Councilor Zakim will be leading a meeting in the upcoming future on how the area could benefit from investing in a public school.

“I know there is a great want and desire to have a school here,” said Mayor Walsh. “As we move forward we’re going to ask what is this neighborhood lacking? I don’t think this neighborhood is lacking a lot but there is a couple things you are lacking and there is one glaring lack.”

Representative Livingstone agrees. He joked saying, “My son Henry turns five in a couple years so the Mayor has some time to get this done but this is long overdue.”

Livingstone said that everyone in this neighborhood has the same goal in making this place a great place to live.

“Everyone wants to make this a great City and make this a great neighborhood,” said Livingstone. “We all come at it with different perspectives and think different things are needed but it is a great open relationship of communication that is already great to see and it results in changes.”

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