The Friends of Crite Park has announced that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has earmarked $50,000 for the creation of Crite Park, thanks to the advocacy of State Representatives Jon Santiago and Aaron Michlewitz.
The work for Crite Park, which is located at the intersection of Columbus Ave., West Canton St., and Appleton St. in the South End, will be broken into two phases, and now enough funding—$650,000— has been secured to begin Phase One, which will include the demolition of the existing park as well as installing utilities and the brick work. The second phase, which is anticipated to begin next year after the remaining money is raised, will include more plantings, fencing, and the installation of Allan Rohan Crite’s artwork on the building at 380 Columbus Ave.. The project is expected to cost $1 million in total.
“We will continue to fundraise until we reach our million dollar mark,” Cheryl Dickinson, president of the Friends of Crite Park, told the Sun.
Dickinson said that the next step is to obtain permits to move forward, and participate in a Public Improvement Commission meeting, which “finalizes what the design will look like,” she said.
By December or January, the Friends of Crite Park anticipate putting out bids for the project, which is expected to break ground in April of next year and should be usable by the end of the summer. Phase two is expected to begin in 2024.
Dickinson thanked Michlewitz and Santiago for their help in securing the $50,000 grant, as well as City Councilor Ed Flynn, who has “been extremely helpful” so far in answering questions and navigating city processes.
The current park, which consists of a raised brick wall with overgrown plantings, is an uninviting space, but the proposed park will be more than three times the size of the existing park, and will include a series of “outdoor living rooms” with benches, tables, and chairs, as well as gaming tables, to create a warm and welcoming space.
Dickinson said that the Friends anticipate holding events in the new space and have it be used as a community gathering location.
“This is a wonderful partnership between the city, the state, and community residents, and this project is bringing people together and bringing the best out of people,” Councilor Flynn told the Sun. “It’s really a tribute to Allan Rohan Crite and his family about what Boston means to everybody and that’s about being inclusive and treating people with respect.”
He continued, “I think the park will provide an opportunity for neighbors to come together and enjoy each other’s company and talk and learn from each other.” He also said that it’s a way to include Allan Rohan Crite “and his wonderful accomplishments as an African American artist. Hopefully we can learn from his life and his accomplishments, and encourage so many young people to learn about him but also participate in the arts and culture, especially communities of color.”
State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, told the Sun that “we’re very happy to be able to be supportive from the House of Representatives; from the state legislature to put some money into revitalizing this park and making it something that’s a place to be proud of; a place people can come and enjoy.”
He added, “I think that representing a lot of downtown neighborhoods, open space is critical. They’re our backyards; we don’t all have backyards in the neighborhoods that I represent, and so anytime you get an opportunity to put some money in to try to move the ball forward and to provide better open space is something that I’ve always done in my career, and as the chair of Ways and Means I’ve had an opportunity to be able to do even more so from a financial standpoint recently, and this park is a great example of that.”
Rep. Jon Santiago said he looks forward to the park’s completion, and as a South End resident, hopes to bring his young son to enjoy the new space.
“Crite Park is a valued respite of greenery and community space who’s namesake honors one of the most prolific and important artists of color in Boston’s history,” Santiago told the Sun in a statement.
“We must do everything we can to honor this unique history and invest in our green space. That’s why I was glad to support a $50,000 state investment in Crite Park. I want to thank State Representative Aaron Michlewitz for his leadership and the Friends of Crite Park Board, the FoCP Advisory council, and residents of the South End for their steadfast commitment to improving our neighborhood.”