SELDC Approves Design for New Crite Park in Concept; Details to Be Worked out in Subcommittee

The proposed design for the new Crite Park at the intersection of Columbus Avenue and West Canton  and Appleton Streets was approved in concept by the South End Landmark District Commission (SELDC) on January 5.

Cheryl Dickinson, the chairperson for the Friends of Crite Park, had presented an original proposal for the park under Advisory Review last August, where the project was well received overall and the commission made some small suggestions regarding the proposed pergolas, artwork, and flooring material for the park. The current park is a small triangle with a raised brick wall that residents say is uninviting and full of trash on many occasions.

Dickinson returned on January 5 to present the updated plan for a vote from the commission. 

Dickinson said at the hearing that “the project is in an area that’s surrounded by a series of affordable housing units,” and many of those residents do not have outside space. “This particular park is very helpful to residents nearby,” she said, and will also provide a place for programming in the neighborhood while honoring artist Allan Crite.

She proposed the installation of eight new trees and the removal of the trees “within the perimeter of the existing brick enclosure that we’re referring to as a park,” she said. Three large linden trees will remain, as well as two trees on the Columbus Ave. side. She proposed several new shade trees “bordering the lindens,” but said that the lindens cause issues when they “emit droppings.”

Dickinson said that the lindens are not allowed to be removed, but the Friends still want to provide adequate seating in the park, so she proposed three pergolas that will both provide shade and protect against the droppings from the linden trees on the Appleton St. side. The pergolas have perforations on the top, which Dickinson said are smaller on the side where the linden trees are. They are proposed to be made of steel and painted a dark brown color.

“The general concept is that of an outdoor living room,” Dickinson said of the proposal, which is a nod to Crite, as she said that is something that he also mentioned in his work. The proposed park is “about 3.4 times larger than the existing brick enclosure,” she added.

She then talked about the flooring for the park, which was one of the issues raised by the Commission in August. The originally proposed floor was concrete, but the Commission had said they prefer brick to best fit in with the historic district. There was some back and forth and questioning over accessibility in the park with the use of brick, but Dickinson said that after speaking with the Boston Disabilities Commission, they agreed that brick would be an acceptable material for the park.

Dickinson briefly mentioned some of the proposed furniture, which includes dark brown and gray chairs and loveseats and small gray tables.

The previously proposed artwork includes pieces of art on the pergolas, but Commissioner John Amodeo had said he felt it looked like a “bus stop.” The newly proposed artwork includes one mosaic piece that would be located along the portion of the park that abuts the building on Columbus Ave.

“We really like the idea of the mosaic,” Dickinson said.

The Commission also got into a discussion around the upkeep of the park and who would be responsible for it, though this is not within the commission’s purview. Amodeo said that “community volunteer commitments go in cycles,” as people get older and others move in or out of the neighborhood.

Dickinson said that people have already shown a lot of interest in the proposed programming for the park, so she believes that people will also want to pitch in to help keep the park clean and inviting for all.

Amodeo said that “that’s a great intention, but I would like to see your maintenance plan have contingencies for the future. I wouldn’t want to see the community suddenly lose its resources or the city not stepping in and the park therefore decline.”

Commissioner Catherine Hunt thanked Dickinson and the landscape architect for listening to the commission’s comments and inserting them into the new design. “What an improvement,” she said, adding that she appreciates the use of brick for the flooring. “Brick does not preclude access,” she said.

Commissioner David Shepperd said he also likes the brick and the new artwork, but thinks more of the details surrounding the art piece should be worked out. He also said that he is “not sold on the pergolas yet,” as he believes more discussion is needed on whether or not they are appropriate in the neighborhood. He said that they look “very modern” to him, and argued that the trees in the area would provide shade in the park, so the pergolas wouldn’t be necessary for that purpose.

“I’m hesitant to approve anything with pergolas at all,” Shepperd said, adding that he also has concerns about the maintenance and upkeep of the park and wants to ensure that plantings and other aspects of the park are able to easily be kept up.

He said there are “lots of weeds” and “garbage” on the existing site, and said that the hope is that neighbors will truly pitch in once the new park is built.

Dickinson responded by saying that people have expressed that they don’t want to go near the area because there are a lot of needles and trash. “I would not want to clean that up…I don’t want to deal with that,” she said. “It invites a lot of vagrancy.” She also said that not having the pergolas would be cheaper, but it is a solution for protecting the proposed seating from the linden tree droppings.

“If we only provided seating on one side, we wouldn’t really be making the best use of the park,” she said. She also said she could reach out to the Friends of Hayes Park to see how that park is maintained, which Amodeo said was a “great idea,” as he said that Hayes Park is maintained nicely.

“I heard what Cheryl is saying about wanting to turn your back because it’s just overwhelming,” Shepperd said, but said that he thinks regular upkeep is necessary to maintain a park even if it may be difficult, and has done so himself with his community garden plot which he said has many of the same issues.

Commissioner John Freeman piped in about the pergolas, agreeing with Shepperd that they are “a little on the modern side,” but argued that they are in fact “part fo the Victorian vocabulary,” though maybe not in the South End. Freeman suggested that the commission approve the park’s design in concept, but remand further details about various aspects to a subcommittee.

Amodeo said he likes the mosaic placed as a “focal point to draw people in to the park,” and also appreciates the all brick flooring. He also said he liked the all white flower choices against the red brick. He said the furniture “for the most part is fine,” but further details could be worked out in the subcommittee, and the pergola discussion should also be a focus of the subcommittee.

In general, the public was in favor of this proposal as well, with some residents saying they are glad to hear the current eyesore of a park will be brought to life with a fresh facelift.  Some liked the amount of seating and the increase in open space, as well as the shade that will be offered.

Others, like Rick Richter, who said he lives down the street from the park, said that he and a few others have occasionally cleaned trash out of the existing park, but “as soon as we clean up, people throw trash right back in there.” He said that though it can be difficult to find volunteers “for a sustained period of time,” there has been significant interest from neighbors in keeping this new park clean and maintained.

Others suggested putting signs with the Friends of Crite Park contact information on it so residents can express interest in helping with the upkeep. Resident Anurag Agrawal said he was “overall in support of the project,” but he said he wants to ensure the proper removal of trash from the receptacles as well as to make sure the park won’t create activity or noise at night.

The SELDC voted to approve the park’s design in concept and remand outstanding details to a subcommittee consisting of John Amodeo and David Shepperd.

“We look forward to continuing the discussion of the details in subcommittee,” Amodeo said.

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