(Image courtesy DND)
Close to a year ago, the Department of Neighborhood Development floated the idea of turning two adjoining lots between West 1st Street and West 2nd Street in South Boston into a mix of open space and housing. Now, after steady lobbying by residents, it seems that the space will instead be a new park.
On Tuesday night, department officials met with residents at the Condon School to give updates on the park transformation timeline and what the next steps will be. Although there is plenty of support from the city and residents, the effort to bring a park to the community lacks funds and will likely move slowly.
“When we first came out, we thought it would be good to propose something that would combine housing with green space but we quickly heard that the neighborhood needed green space,” John Feuerbach, senior development officer with DND, explained to residents Tuesday.
Located at 174 West 2nd St. and 179 West 1st St., the city-owned lots are currently vacant excluding a Public Works building located on the West 2nd Street parcel. The lots, which total approximately 16,000 square-feet, are worth a combined $416,300, according to the city’s Assessing Department.
Tuesday’s presentation concentrated heavily on notes from a design charrette held in October. Although the charrette tackled all possible uses for the space, including parking and community gardens, the majority in attendance believed that the space should support a use that combined both a passive park and community gardens.
“We found that parking maybe isn’t the best idea because you really don’t get many spaces,” Tim Love, an architect and South Boston resident who helped facilitate the charrette, explained to residents Tuesday.
Even when using the entire space for parking, only 38 spaces are gained, with a few existing on-street spaces lost due to curb cuts. The majority in attendance Tuesday, many of which participated in the planning meeting, nodded in agreement with Love’s assessment.
“I don’t think parking isn’t a very good use,” said Kelly O’Shea, an area resident. “Most of the people that would go here [to the park] live in the neighborhood anyway.”
With the majority supportive of a park, residents began conversations about the details, including if the existing building should be removed.
“It’s an attractive looking building, but I don’t want to sacrifice the view into the park,” said Jon Ramos, an area resident. “I think the best value to the park would be to eliminate the building.”
“Knocking it down is probably the best way to go, but before we do that, can the building be put to use for the community?” said Brain Mahoney, an area resident.
Dogs were also a hot topic.
“I think you have to expect dog usage,” said Bill Gleason, president of the West Broadway Neighborhood Association. “What could be the effect of dogs on this space?”
While many conceded that dog owners need to get their pets out, many said that not every open space in the neighborhood should be open season.
“I’m of the viewpoint that not every park should allow dogs,” said Gary Murad, vice president of the St. Vincent’s Lower End Neighborhood Association. “When I sit on the lawn, I don’t want to sit on what they left.”
Other suggestions included the addition of bike racks, the possibility of a community grill, and how the space could connect to the adjacent Signal Building.
As of now there is no concrete design for the space, but that is expected to be the easiest part of the process. Finding the money to design and build the park is expected to be the biggest challenge.
“I think what’s clear is that these are types of uses [park/community garden] are supported by the community,” said Feuerbach. “At this stage we are still looking for a source of funds,”
Neighborhood development officials said they are committed to finding funds to begin the design phase. A representative from the Boston Parks and Recreation Department also said parks is committed to working with the community and will look to its Fiscal Year 2016 budget for possible funding.
“It was a good meeting and a lot of groundwork has been laid,” Sheila Dillon, the director of DND, said after the meeting. “I’m really looking forward to the next set of conversations were we can really get more into a design.”
(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2013)