SELDC Hears Plans for Crite Park Under Advisory Review; Makes Small Recommendations

A new vision for Crite Park was presented for Advisory Review at the South End Landmark District Commission hearing on August 4. Commissioners seemed overall pleased with the proposal, providing fairly minor suggestions for the project team to consider before coming back for a design review that would result in a vote.

Cheryl Dickinson, President of the Friends of Crite Park, provided a brief overview of the existing conditions at the park, which include six trees, “four of which” she said are no longer alive, and “two of which have not been pruned since 1986.”

She said that the area is busy and a lot of traffic comes through. “No matter what angle you view the park from, it’s not very attractive,” she said.

“One of our goals with Crite Park is to beautify the space into an open, safe, ant tranquil environment,” she said, which includes expanding the park site by 2.5 times to create more area for community events.

The park is named for Allan Crite, an artist who was “a cultural and South End icon,” according to Dickinson.

Dickinson proposed three different pergolas for the park, which would serve the purposes of providing shade, which the public requested, as well as shield the seating areas below them from droppings from the Linden trees above.

A survey distributed to neighbors indicated that South End residents wanted to better honor Allan Crite with a redesign of a park, but also to create a tranquil “urban oasis,” she said.

The proposed plan for the park gives it an “outdoor living room feel,” with seating areas in small alcoves: three on the Columbus Ave. side and three on the Appleton St. side, Dickinson said. She explained that each area has a small love seat with single chairs, but all seating is small enough so that someone would not be able to comfortably lie down. Tables are also part of the design, including some game tables.

Plantings are proposed for around the alcoves to create a sense of some privacy but still leaves enough room for larger amounts of people to gather in the park for events.

The proposal also includes the installation of new trees and a lighting design element, and a garden with white flowers and lavender accents.

Concrete was proposed for a portion of the ground, and some of Crite’s artwork was proposed to be reproduced and included at the base of the pergolas, for a total of six panels.

A low fencing on the interior curb was proposed to protect the plantings, which Commissioner Amodeo felt was appropriate.

Overall, the Commissioners seemed to be in favor of this proposal, making several minor suggestions for Dickinson to consider.

One was including brick on the ground in place of the concrete, as Amodeo said that is allowed by the ADA and the City of Boston Commission for Persons with Disabilities as long as certain criteria are followed to ensure the brick will remain a flat surface.

“When you have a brick context, brick would be preferred,” Amodeo said. “I don’t think you’re required to put concrete there.”

Dickinson said the landscape architect for the project “will be happy to hear that.”

Commissioner Catherine Hunt said that “it seems like there’s not enough park, especially with the tables in that open area.”

Amodeo agreed that the proposed location of the game tables might not be the best one, as it would get in the way of the open space.

Dickinson responded by saying that there are a number of events in the works, though she couldn’t share details as “a lot of them are still int he planning spaces.” But the overall goal of the redesign is to make the area “an active community park.” She also added that the renderings might be making the space look larger than it will actually be.

“Allan Crite’s paintings have so much going on in them,” Commissioner John Freeman commented. “all sorts of curves and open spaces. This seems to have an imposed grid on it. It feels like I wish it was a little more loose or something.”

Amodeo said that “in a post-COVID world, so many activities are gong to be brought outside that are not outside now. Having that space is important. I totally support your wanting to make this improvement and I think you’re a long way towards an approvable plan. I would say we would probably be picking at details rather than concepts here.”

Amodeo said that one of his biggest issues is the pergolas, which he said he is “on the fence” about because he likes the design on the top, but questioned whether they’re “sympathetic enough with the district.” He said that he feels the SELDC Standards and Criteria “didn’t anticipate enough the evolution the outdoor spaces in the district would go through.”

Dickinson said they originally looked at wooden pergolas, but decided that the upkeep would be too much, so they chose a powder coated aluminum instead.

“I just think it needs more articulation in its massing,” Amodeo said of the pergolas. “The framework needs to be less minimal.”

He also said he feels the artwork proposed for the side walls of the pergolas would block views into the park, “and that concerns me. Eyes from the street into the park will be important for maintaining a sense of safety.”

He also said the panels might be too busy. “As much as I love art, that’s a lot of art,” he said. He also called the artwork “signs” since it is a replica of an original, and not the original artwork itself. He likened the panels on the pergola to signage at a bus shelter, and urged Dickinson to rethink how to include Crite’s artwork without including so many panels.

 Commissioner David Shepperd said he thinks the design of the park is “nice,” but added that he has more of a concern with the pergolas than Amodeo does.

Amodeo said that shade structures like the pergolas do already exist in some community gardens in the South End, such as on Worcester St. in the community garden there.

Since this was just an advisory review, no vote was taken by the Commission, but Dickinson said that she and the design team will reconsider the design of the pergolas, come up with another way to honor Crite’s artwork, and rethink the concrete to include more brick before coming back to the Commission with a revised plan for a vote.

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