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Weary of process, planners of Greenway site walk away

The planners of a Boston botanical garden for the new Rose Kennedy Greenway are giving up on the project, raising questions about what will happen to the three prominent blocks in the Financial District.

Linda and Jonathan Haar, principals of the Boston Planning Institute Inc., late last month terminated their contract with Garden Under Glass Inc., a subsidiary of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, which has the legal right to develop those blocks over the Interstate 93 tunnels into a botanical facility.

Garden Under Glass, which after years of failed attempts contracted with the Haars late in 2003 to come up with a concept for the property, owes the pair $476,793 in salary and expenses, according to the Haars' termination letter, dated April 29.

But the real reason for throwing in the towel on a project they have worked on for a year and a half, the Haars said, is that they cannot continue without ''a clear designation from the Turnpike Authority, with a clear right to plan for, design, and build" on the land.

The horticultural society was the only organization specifically given land on the Greenway in the environmental approvals for the Big Dig project about 15 years ago. The formal transfer of that designation to the Haars' concept -- a botanical garden and conservation and learning center known as the Darwin Project -- has been delayed repeatedly.

And that has stifled funding, they said.

''We can no longer afford to continue without financial resources," the Haars said in the letter.

Linda Haar said yesterday that the Turnpike Authority has not allowed her to work out an arrangement with the horticultural society independently, nor has it facilitated that necessary step.

She noted in the letter that the Darwin Project has been enthusiastically received by the public and said that ''an important real estate developer/philanthropist" has volunteered his help, along with $50,000. That person and others, including two developers, an environmental advocate and fund raiser, and ''a world-class" architect, were poised to help get the project going, she said.

But a letter of confirmation from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which oversees the Big Dig and development of the Greenway, has been promised since the fall and has yet to materialize. Fred Yalouris, director of architecture for the Big Dig, said he is hopeful that a recent meeting with the society and the Haars that had to be canceled can be rescheduled. ''We hope she's still interested in working with the Mass. Hort. effort," he said.

''We still believe the botanical garden concept is a good one," he added. ''We'd like to see that outcome."

Thomas C. Palmer Jr. can be reached at

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