Landmarks Commission Holds First Virtual Hearing

The Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) held its first virtual meeting using videoconferencing program Zoom on Tuesday, March 24. BLC Commissioners, staff, project proponents, and the public were able to tune into the hearing and participate.

The BLC approved landscape improvements at both the Collins and Garrison statues on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall in the Back Bay. Both statues require some repair work as they are worn in certain areas.

Cassie Bethoney of Weston and Sampson presented the proposal, and those watching were able to follow along with a PowerPoint presentation on the screen.

“We want to create a uniform plaza,” Bethoney said in regards to the Garrison Statue. The proposal includes pitching the pavers to drain to the outside curb, and installing a vertical granite curb.

She said they are considering a unit paver field that’s set with a sand bedding with a slab underneath that has holes for water to drain through. It will have a three inch reveal that will act as a visual barrier for tires and pedestrians.

Bob Mulcahy, Director of Parks Care and Capital Projects for the Friends of the Public Garden, who is a leader on this project, said that the majority of people move around this piece and not on it, though some do come up the stairs for a closer look. “This part of the surround is a very contemporary feature,” he said of the area with pavers, as historically it was evergreen planting beds.

The proposed new pavers would have a smoother finish on them than the current ones. More than one pattern was proposed, but the Commission said they leaned more towards the diamond pattern.

BLC Commissioner Brad Walker asked why the actual steps were not being reset, as they “look pretty rough,” he said.

“We did look at it, Mulcahy said, but “ultimately it did come down to money in this phase.” He said that the joints will be repointed as part of this project, but in order to reset the stairs, everything needs to be removed and it is more complicated than it looks.

For the Collins Statue, Bethoney said that the cobble surrounds on the back of the plaza are being pushed out by the roots of the existing tree.

“There’s an opportunity here to create a uniform pathway that drains properly and mitigates vehicular tire issues,” she said.

They are also proposing to change the planting around the monument itself, and plant evergreens, hostas, and daffodils, though they are still early in this process and are working with the Friends of the Public Garden as well as the Garden Club of the Back Bay on the final planting decisions.

These proposals were approved by the Commission with the proviso that final choices for things like mortar coloring and granite selection be submitted to BLC staff.

For the Back Bay Fens, Stella Lensing, Senior Project Manager at the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) presented a proposal to plant 52 trees along Park Drive and the Fenway. She said that both DCR and the Emerald Necklace Conservancy are working on this project.

There is a list of species that the DCR is proposing, which includes trying to plant as many native trees and ones that fit into specific locations as as possible. No existing trees would be removed as part of this project.

Along the park strip in the Fenway, Lensing proposed Jefferson American Elm trees, and at Park Drive at Peterborough Street, Black Gum/Tupelos, as there is a larger area there with a lot of soil volume, so they think larger trees can be established there.

The other locations and trees proposed are as follows:

Intersection of Park Dr. and Queensberry St.: Jefferson American Elm and American Hornbeam

55 Park Dr.: American Linden and Serviceberry

77 Park Drive: American Hophornbeam and Eastern Redbud

Park Drive at Jersey St.: Black Gum/Tupelo and American Hornbeam

Park Drive at Kilmarnock St.:American Hophornbeam and Black Gum/Tupelo

Park Drive to Boylston St.: American Hophornbeam and Black Gum/Tupelo

BLC Commissioner David Berarducci said he was concerned about the trees in the Fenway surviving in the narrow strip surrounded by pavement, but Lensing said that would be investigated.

Aside from that concern, “there is no issue” with anything proposed, Berarducci said. “We were fine with everything they showed.

“I think it looks like a very nice job,” said Commissioner Brad Walker. There were two letters of support submitted for this project, and the Commisison approved the project as presented.

The team had hoped to start planting this spring, but given the current situation with the coronavirus outbreak, Lensing said they hope to begin as soon as possible.

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