By Beth Treffeisen
The Impact Advisory Group (IAG) met this Wednesday, January 25, at a meeting held by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) to determine where the $350,000 in mitigation funds will be allocated from the Harrison Albany Block developments.
The majority of the funds, $200,000, will go towards the Friends of Blackstone and Franklin Squares to renovate Franklin Park with new lighting and safety features.
The rest, $150,000, will go up for bid to go towards projects that include safety, security, and public welfare within a half mile of the 660 Harrison Avenue development. The grants that will be given out once decided will be no larger than $50,000 each to ensure that there are at least three winners.
The proposed project consists of approximately 700,000 square feet of new and renovated building area, including the construction of two mix-used buildings containing. These will include about 650 residential units, up to 650 off-street parking spaces, and retail and office space.
Seven out of the 13 members of the IAG board attended last week’s meeting. Elected officials within the neighborhood appointed the IAG. They are charged with identifying issues and proposing mitigation for those issues.
This development is on the schedule for the BPDA board meeting being held on February 9, at 5:40p.m. at City Hall. The board will make the final decision to finalize the project.
During the IAG meeting questions arose between members on how much money should be allocated to the park.
“I think if we are able to, it would transform Franklin Square,” said Vadim Kuksin, a member of the Blackstone Franklin Square Neighborhood Association. “That would be a good legacy.”
But, Sue Sullivan who is representing Newmarket had some concerns about giving all the money to one organization.
“It’s way too high,” said Sullivan after talk about having a third of the money going directly to Franklin Park. “I certainly think they deserve a chunk of the money but the Parks Department will love it because it takes them off the hook.”
David Valentine believes that unless these funds go towards the park directly the renovations would never happen. He said that they are unsure where the remainder of the funds will go to directly, potentially leveraging the park to get additional funding from the City.
On the other side Maggie Costa from East Canton Housing said, “If we put all the eggs in one basket we’ll have a beautiful park but it will be neglecting the other parks in the area.”
For many years, the Friends of Blackstone and Franklin Squares have been working towards renovating the Franklin side of the park to have additional lighting and to become more welcoming to community members to use.
According to Eric Huang the president of the association they have tried to work with the City to reduce the canopy of the trees to allow additional light into the park with no success.
Depending on how much money they receive Huang proposed two lighting solutions. One would be temporary that would feature string lighting and bulb lighting that would cost more maintain. The other would be permanent and would feature ambient lighting on the fountains and up lighting on the trees.
The goal is to make the park safer and drive out unwanted activity that often occurs after dark.
“We have two sides of Washington,” said Mike Wilson of the Friends of Blackstone and Franklin Square. “But nowhere else do we have two identical parks with two different urban environments.” ‘