Boston Landmarks Commission Approves Muddy River Flood Wall

The Boston Parks and Recreation Department returned before the Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) along with the Army Corps of Engineers on Feb. 26 regarding Phase Two of the Muddy River Flood Damage Reduction Project. Margaret Dyson, Director of Historic Parks at Boston Parks and Recreation, came before the BLC in October of last year to present the project, which was approved except for the flood wall that would surround the Boston Fire Department Control Center in the Back Bay Fens. Phase Two includes dredging of a flood control channel through 13 areas.

The BLC was dissatisfied with the original proposal for the wall, saying that it needed more thoughtful design consideration. At the Feb. 26 hearing, Dyson brought with her the team from the Army Corps of Engineers who are responsible for the project.

Jennifer Flanagan, Project Manager, provided a very detailed presentation with renderings of the newly proposed fence. Flanagan said that the fire-alarm building that this fence would protect was completed in 1925, and fencing has been installed around the building since 1940.

Flanagan explained the new proposal, saying that the view of the river would be enhanced by using a picket fence versus a security screened fence, which will help match the front fencing,. She also said that the existing security lighting will be reinstalled, the flood wall will have a capstone for aesthetics, and the flood wall on the sides of the building will be stepped up by a foot instead of just “deadending” into the ground.

Flanagan also presented two different materials for the wall that the Army Corps of Engineers were considering: a stone veneer wall, and a concrete wall with formliner. She talked about the pros and cons of each, but said that they were ultimately going with the stone veneer wall, as it is a similar material as other walls in the park, and even if it is chipped, it would still look like granite beneath.

Flanagan said that the stone veneer would be placed on both sides of the fence, and the fence would be 6-feet, 6-inches tall.

Commissioner David Berarducci asked why the “extra pieces of fence” were necessary and why the wall needed to be stepped up in the way that it is presented. He said there is “no need” to have extra heigh when it can be minimized, and suggested that only a few inches of the footing be exposed above the grade.

Flanagan said that their intent with the stepping was to improve the aesthetics of the wall. “We were trying to introduce this so that it blends into the landscape and provides an aesthetic feature,” Flanagan said.

Berarducci said that since the wall was the Commission’s original issue, it should be minimized “as much as possible.” He suggested reducing the amount of step and saving money, as that would be a lot of granite they wouldn’t need to purchase.

Commissioner Brad Walker was concerned about what the existing security lights would look like once they are placed with this new fence, as it is “much more delicate.”

Dyson said that she anticipates having to review the way the lighting is run. In the fence and the fixtures with BLC staff, as well as samples of the exact stone that will be used.

Berarducci said that the point would be to “minimize the visualness” of the lights, and wants the housetop of the light to be as “minimal as possible” from outside the fence. He added that he would like to see the stone choice be more monochromatic.

Mission Hill resident Allison Pultinas said that bringing the fence lower towards the roadway “would be a nice thing to do.”

Another resident near the area of the fence wanted to know what happens on the other side of the path for flood mitigation. Dyson responded by saying that most of the flood control will be on the Victory Gardens side of the river. “Well this is a huge change and I appreciate the effort you’ve put into it,” Beraducci told the team. They approved the fence as presented at the hearing, with the provisos that direction will be given regarding the color of the stone, and the cap stone has to be a similar color to the other stone. Walker added that they should speak with the fire department and ask them if it is possible for the fence in front turn the corner slightly. “I think that would be an improvement,” he said. All of these details are to be worked out with BLC staff, and the team does not have to appear at another hearing.

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