- May 25, 2006
- Reaction score
Boston Globe - November 18, 2008
Councilors craft ideas for Common's amenities, funding
By Matt Viser, Globe Staff | November 18, 2008
City officials are exploring a massive rehabilitation of the Boston Common, considering whether to carve out portions of the country's oldest public park for a dog park and a full-scale commercial restaurant.
The City Council's special Committee on the Boston Common might also recommend that the city get help in operating the park by forming a conservancy that would do private fund-raising and some maintenance of the park, according to a draft report of the recommendations.
"The park needs some help right now; financially it needs more money," said Councilor Salvatore LaMattina. "The question is, how can we make this the best park in the city, if not the country?"
The recommendations would probably be implemented only with the support of Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who likes some ideas (installing a dog park) but opposes others (a full restaurant).
"I would like to see some real nice little refreshment carts out there where people could pick up food," Menino said in an interview. "But I don't want to see liquor at the Boston Common at all. You've got kids playing there; it's a family atmosphere, where people can walk through."
For nearly a year, the City Council has been looking for ways to improve the Common, which they say has been underfunded, ill-maintained, and riddled with brown-bag drinkers and drug users. In June, a delegation of about 20 city officials and civic leaders toured several New York City parks in an effort to study what has and has not worked.
Councilors are looking at setting up a dog park at the corner of Charles and Beacon streets, putting boundaries around an area where dog owners currently congregate.
The draft report says a full-scale restaurant serving beer and wine could be located at the corner of Tremont and Boylston streets. In order to make room for the restaurant, maintenance facilities currently at the site would be moved underground. The city would then auction a lease on the location.
Another possible site for a restaurant would be near the Frog Pond, the draft report noted.
There has been talk for years about opening a restaurant on the Common - a Boston version of Tavern on the Green in Central Park - but the idea never gained traction.
The City Council's planning is still incomplete and is based on the work of three councilors, Michael P. Ross, Bill Linehan, and LaMattina. Councilors stressed that the draft is still in flux before a final version is put before the full council by mid-December.
Menino, while opposing some aspects of their plan, said he appreciated the councilors' work.
"We're always looking to make the Common cleaner, more attractive for folks," Menino added. "It's good to have some other eyes to look at it."
One of the plans being floated by the City Council is setting up a conservancy composed of area institutions and properties that abut the Common to help raise private money and oversee care of the park.
"They'd be eyes and ears for the park," said Ross, who is chairman of the committee. "It would be a group of people who meet regularly and are self-governed . . . and want to make the Common a better place that looks to private dollars instead of nonexistent public dollars."
He said the park would still be owned and operated by the city.
Menino did not seem supportive of setting up a conservancy, saying it would only duplicate the efforts of the Friends of the Public Garden, a nonprofit that works to improve the Public Garden, Boston Common, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall.
"They have that now," Menino said of a conservancy for the park. "If they want to raise money for it, I'm all for it. But let's not have 14 fund-raisers."
Councilors are also looking at making a grand entrance to the common, perhaps with a redesigned visitor center and a parade of international flags leading to the site. Ideas include extending ornamental fencing along Tremont Street to delineate the park's boundaries from Downtown Crossing.
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.