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Beyond The Big Dig
About this project

What happens to the ribbon of land being created by the depression of the Central Artery may be the most important development decision to face Boston in a generation.


A dream grows in Boston

By Liz Harris and William McDonough, 3/29/2003

A GOOD DEAL has been written about the status of the Garden Under Glass project and the challenges of transforming the vision of Boston's first botanical gardens into a reality in the face of this economy.

You can envision the Garden Under Glass project by closing your eyes and thinking: It is 2005.

Imagine walking around the new downtown Boston with its park benches, shade trees, and fountains. Green grass. More trees. Flowers.

Now, add to the scene the city's first new public garden and glass house for people to enjoy.

It is a dynamic environment where local residents, workers, and visitors can enjoy lush, sensory-stimulating surroundings. It is also a learning environment where visitors can take pleasure in the natural world and effortlessly understand the relationship of horticulture to science, art, history, and culture.

In more ways than just the trees, grass, and restful benches, the new downtown will provide an oasis from the complex and uncertain world, from the stresses of the office buildings off in the distance. The new public garden and glass house brings Boston in line with other cities around the world, which have had this oasis.

This is called the Garden Under Glass. It will transform the way we experience our daily walks through the city.

Those of us who have been dreaming this dream for many years are determined to make it happen with lots of help from benefactors, generous donors, the business community, and others. But, it is not coming easily.

We have been criticized for not moving fast enough; we have been criticized for not being able to raise money when others have struggled with the same challenges. Meanwhile, we have developed a phased-in approach to create this oasis, which will bring spectacular international garden exhibits to the site as early as 2005.

First, in collaboration with the Japan Society of Boston, the Garden Under Glass project will develop a traditional Japanese garden on Parcel 22 (also known as Dewey Square, the site where the air intake structure currently is under construction). The Japan Society will celebrate its 100th anniversary during 2004-05.

We hope that Japanese and American sources will step up to fund this beautiful garden. As noted by many, Japan's and our temperate zones are similar, and our long-term, historic trading patterns further support this relationship. This garden will be permanent and serve as the southern garden gateway to the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

Also, the Garden Under Glass site has been designated as the 2005 international location of Mosaiculture, a unique and beautiful horticultural exhibition in which numerous nations will participate in presenting horticultural displays, resembling giant topiaries, for the viewing and enjoyment by the public at large.

After these two prestigious exhibitions are in place, the big, daunting challenge in these choppy economic waters, of course, is to fulfill that 10-year-old dream of the Garden Under Glass. Some say we should have been more ready when the Big Dig greenway finally came into focus. We accept that but changing conditions and logistical challenges were also hard for others involved in Greenway planning to manage. But, we could have led the way for others to follow. We have catching up to do and we are determined to do just that.

Two things to keep in mind as the city assesses our progress: Garden Under Glass needs to be privately funded, unlike three other "park" sections that receive public funding, and Garden Under Glass has two buildings that cost more than plants and shrubs.

We have scheduled several major meetings to show Boston's leaders what Garden Under Glass means to the city. We want it to be a permanent, horticultural glass house on the northern parcel, presenting world class, seasonally changing exhibits both to engage tourists and to attract urban and suburban residents' visits and repeat visits. It is expected that the Massachusetts Horticultural Society's Elm Bank facility in Wellesley/Dover will serve as the "back stage" and support facility that will supply plant material to the Garden Under Glass on an ongoing basis. We see it as a vivid example of our "urban growth to suburban gardens" campaign.

Finally, in building on the spectacular model of the Norman Leventhal Park (formerly known as Post Office Square Park), Garden Under Glass will seek an "economic engine" comparable to that park's underground garage, to fund the requisite annual maintenance as well as any anticipated operating deficits. Since the site does not offer sufficient depth for a garage, this "engine" will most likely be a building located on the central parcel.

Liz Harris and William McDonough are co-chairs of the Garden Under Glass Inc.

Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company
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