Conservancy Calls for Shattuck Hospital Site to Return to Open Space

The Emerald Necklace Conservancy has tossed a curveball into the Shattuck Hospital planning process, calling for the entirety of the hospital campus to be returned as open space – a proposal that has riled many in the South End who had been promised that some relief would come in relocation of services to the Shattuck site.

Conservancy President Karen Mauney-Brodek said the planning process has not gone as her organization expected, has not been transparent, and they would like to see the public health uses relocated to the Arborway Yard – an underutilized MBTA bus yard about a half-mile from the Shattuck site in Jamaica Plain.

“We’re glad there is a public conversation about planning the site,” she said. “However, we think there should be some real conversation about what happened in the last meeting. We saw housing and support services going from 200,000 sq. ft. to 600,000 sq. ft. and complete development of the area with new buildings. We feel there should be another conversation…”

That conversation includes opening up the Shattuck as green space, something she said was the case for nearly 70 years when Franklin Park was first opened. She said the Shattuck assumed 13 acres for public health purposes in 1949, and now might be a good time to return it to open space.

“Sometimes a city encounters a rare, pivotal moment when we can make a decision to invest in the long-term needs of our city, its communities and climate by adding in a significant manner to Boston’s open space inventory. We are in one now,” read the letter.

Instead of building up to 600,000 sq. ft. of supportive housing and supportive services on the Shattuck, she said they would propose locating those uses on the state-owned Arborway Yard – which is close by. That would free up the Shattuck space to be used for open space.

“It was a park for 60 or 70 years,” she said. “I think that conversation has been happened already in the neighborhoods. People have been asking for open space and walking paths. That area has no bathrooms and very few public amenities like playgrounds. There are a myriad of public amenities that could serve the thousands of new and existing residents in this underserved area.”

In the South End, the letter has riled those who have been monitoring the Shattuck Hospital relocation process. The state plans to relocate the Shattuck Hospital to the South End in the Newton Pavilion building by 2022. Already, the state has purchased the building, and the planning process was meant to look at the future of the Shattuck campus in JP. Part of that process was providing relief to the South End of the numbers of human services that are there now. It was expected by numerous neighbors there that in exchange for accepting the Shattuck in the South End, they would have some human services moved to the new recovery campus in Franklin Park.

Steve Fox, moderator of the South End Forum, sent out a letter to the long-established Opiate Working Group last week. That letter addressed the Conservancy’s position and explained how it could conflict with some of the promises made to the South End.

“I thought it important for all members of the Working Group to understand the impact of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy position,” he wrote. “They are asking that no buildings, programs, housing, or services be allowed on the thirteen acres of the Shattuck Hospital campus, that the entire campus be adsorbed as pure open space. I urge all members of the Working Group to read their letter seeking broad political support and understand what it would mean to our priorities and needs should this proposal gain political and administrative support.”

Mauney-Brodek said the uses proposed at the current Shattuck site are not in harmony with the area and would work far better at the Arborway. She said it would be best there because it could be closer to transit.

“But this site is clearly not the best place for these uses, as it is not integrated into a community; instead these uses would be far better located nearer to transit and other activity areas,” she wrote. “Though the process has not explored other options, we request consideration of nearby state-owned property, the underutilized 18 acres at the Arborway Yard, which could provide at least 200,000 sq. ft. of space. It is located near the park, but is closer to transit and less isolated, making it a far better location.”

The matter was on the docket to be discussed at the next Opiate Working Group in the South End on May 21.

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