By Seth Daniel
After a number of delays in construction, the new Underground at Ink Block park beneath the Expressway in the South End will open with a colossal artistic celebration on Saturday, Sept. 9.
The opening is the culmination of a partnership between the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and National Development, the developer of Ink Block adjacent to the new park. It will unleash eight-acres of parkland, 175 new parking spots, boardwalks connecting the park, a new dog park, a waterfront walkway and a cutting-edge graffiti mural installation.
“One thing that convinced us to get involved with this is, like Ink Block, we want to make Boston a great place to live for young people and employees of the companies that are here,” said Ted Tye of National Development. “In the same vein as Lawn on D and the Greenway, we want to really create an urban playground for people to enjoy.”
The area was once a construction yard, was home to some unsavory goings-on and largely considered unsafe. Through the state’s Infra-Space program, which sought to activate underutilized spaces below the Expressway, National Development secured a lease to program the new park a little over a year ago.
“We had hoped to open much earlier, but there were construction delays, though we will have it open on Sept. 9,” said Tye.
The park opens to the public with a full day of programming and events including the Underground Mural Project powered by Reebok in partnership with National Development. Reebok International Ltd., now headquartered in Boston, is a leading worldwide designer, marketer and distributor of fitness and lifestyle footwear, apparel and equipment.
“Underground at Ink Block brings a much needed amenity to this rapidly transforming area of Boston’s South End, utilizing transportation infrastructure as a blank canvas for creativity and connecting communities,” said Tye. “We are thrilled to be working with Reebok on the mural project.”
The 2017 Underground Mural Project brings together today’s most popular and influential street artists to transform over 150,000 square feet of mural walls. The 2017 participating artists include: Cey Adams (New York City), Don Rimx (Puerto Rico), Imagine876 (Boston) Hoxxoh (Miami), Marka27 (Boston), Percy Fortini Wright (Boston), Problak (Boston), Upendo (Los Angeles), Vyal One (Los Angeles), Ewok (Boston), Thy Doan (Boston) and Andrew Balboa (Boston).
The 2017 Underground Mural Project is curated by Street Theory.
Another key piece is connecting South Boston, Fort Point and the South End in one exciting space, Tye said – noting that they have been separated for decades by the highway and other infrastructure.
Landscaped pedestrian boardwalks and bicycle paths along the Fort Point Channel will now create new connections between communities previously separated by highway infrastructure.
“Part of the big opportunity here is to light the space up, activate it and use it to re-connect South Boston and the South End again,” said Tye.
A key element there will be the new access to the waterfront, which will at first include a waterfront walking path, but could include more things in the future.
“You just have this great stretch of waterfront that sits there and has not been utilized,” Tye said. “How do you activate it on both sides create activities? There are things we have on the agenda…I can see that water piece really activated over time.”
The newly transformed walls and park will be unveiled at the first annual “Underground GetDown” block party scheduled for Sept. 9, from 2-6 p.m. The event includes the Loco Beer Garden in partnership with Sierra Nevada, DJ’s Gucci Vuitton and Braun Dapper spinning hip hop, house, funk and soul, plus Epic ping-pong, lawn games, activities for children and pets, food trucks and more.
The event is free and open to the public.