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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.


Rescuing a garden


CRACKS ARE appearing in plans for the ambitious Garden Under Glass, which has been counted on for more than a decade to anchor the Rose Kennedy Greenway. The cracks must be repaired quickly or the entire greenway project will be threatened with disjointed planning and, potentially, a hodge-podge of parks.

The Massachusetts Horticultural Society is the designated developer of the Garden Under Glass, conceived of as the showpiece of the street-level green corridor to be created when the elevated Central Artery is torn down.

On Tuesday, the society's president, John Peterson, described the plans at the Boston Public Library, saying the project has moved "from one that could be built to one that should be built to one that will be built." But he did not tell the audience that negotiations for a partnership with the quasi-public Massachusetts Development Finance Agency had collapsed the day before.

Now the Horticultural Society and its supporters are scrambling to find another relationship that will give the project credibility. Mark Maloney, director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, late yesterday offered a life preserver, suggesting that the city's Economic Development and Industrial Corp. might provide expertise and a funding strategy. Still, the Horticultural Society will have to raise a large portion of the $70 million estimated cost. "They have a significant development nut to crack," Maloney said, but that will be easier "if they can put together a development team."

Liz Harris, cochair of the Garden Under Glass Corporation, said there are still some potential private-sector partners as well. But she acknowledged that time is limited. The design teams for the other greenway parcels are moving forward, she said, and "we don't want to be left in the station."

The three parcels in question run from South Station to Oliver Street and the Evelyn Moakley Bridge. Since the Horticultural Society was designated to develop them, the concept has attracted widespread support, but planners have kept them separate from work on the rest of the greenway. The result is that there has been too little coordination with the proposals for the eight other parcels.

And while doubts about society's ability to pull off the full project have grown, there has been virtually no formal contingency planning that looks at alternatives.

Matthew Amorello, chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, changed that yesterday, asking his legal and design staff to explore "what other options are available." Although Amorello says he continues to support the Garden Under Glass, it is only prudent for him to consider alternatives.

The Horticultural Society's designs have excited people's imaginations, but they will bear fruit only if they receive tangible and prompt support throughout Greater Boston.

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