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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.


Too slow on the Artery


WITH LESS THAN two months left in the legislative session, negotiators seeking to set up a new agency to manage the 27-acre strip to be created when the Central Artery comes down need to redouble their efforts.

It has already been more than two months since Mayor Menino and House Speaker Thomas Finneran announced a breakthrough on the issue, saying they had agreed on the outlines of a new trust that would manage the milelong corridor of the Rose Kennedy Greenway. But few details have been made public, and time is growing short.

As part of the Beyond the Big Dig project, a panel of national experts at a May 30 forum recommended that a public-private trust be set up promptly and that the City of Boston "play the controlling role." Earlier, case studies from San Francisco, Paris, and Barcelona indicated that strong leadership - usually from the city - was a key to the success of many urban open spaces.

Many participants at community meetings said that a strong manager or client - whether the city itself or a new agency - is crucial to getting a result of the highest quality. William J. Mitchell, dean of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, said, "We've got to create a client organization that makes great talent want to engage."

Some of those involved in the drafting of the legislation say they are optimistic. Acting Governor Jane Swift said Tuesday that she supports the plans for an independent trust whose members will have long enough tenure to deliver "a vision of sustainable vibrancy."

But the details are important and need to be aired in public. No draft has been circulated yet, but according to participants, the core of the proposal is a trust of five, six, or seven members, with two appointed by the governor, one each upon the recommendations of the House speaker and the Senate president, and only one by the mayor of Boston.

Some versions would have the mayor's appointee be the chairman, subject to approval by the governor. And a significant role for the Boston Redevelopment Authority may be written into the law. But whether such provisions would give the city a sufficient voice cannot be known until the bill is made public.

Some details are difficult. For instance, the financing should include an endowment to assure high-quality maintenance, and a sizable sum should come from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which will be stuck with the full cost if no trust is created. The appropriate roles for abutters and other public and private players are also in question.

Such issues need public airing. Inclusion is one of the central promises of the Greenway. It should not be created through a process of exclusion.

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