Chinatown Park Renewal

The Chinatown Park is the jewel of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway – a beautiful, visually intriguing small park that expresses the history of the neighborhood. Now, Stephen Stimson Associates are translating many of the same visual elements to another Chinatown Park: Mary Soo Hoo Park, off Hudson Street next to the Chinatown Gate. The Boston Redevelopment Authority unveiled the new plans at a public meeting on March 25.

If you don’t live in Chinatown, or don’t have active young children who eat dim sum, you probably haven’t spent much time at the Mary Soo Hoo Park. From Hudson Street or Beach Street, the park looks like a dark corner with broken brick paving and concrete and a play structure that looks like it’s designed for the school of hard knocks. The park’s plaza next to Surface Road is physically and thematically disconnected from the Hudson Street side by an enormous vent building which allows fumes to exhaust from the Rte 93 tunnel.

The proposed plan looks like a big improvement. Stimson Associates had a series of public meetings and gathered a lot of community input for this park– and I think that input has helped them put together a great design.

The children’s play area is brought out of the vent shadow to the sunny Surface Road side and features low undulating “planted play mounds” for children to romp on instead of the current let’s-break-a-tooth climbing structure over concrete. Those structures will span the new open path through the park connecting Surface Road to Hudson Street. Currently, the route through the park is a shaded, half-hidden walkway that is barely visible from Beach Street; you can barely tell that the two areas are part of the same park. The Surface Road plaza also borrows red steel structures from Chinatown Park, visually uniting the two parks. The Hudson Street side will have seating and tables. The local community is still debating what to do with the park’s Tiananmen Square Memorial, which divides the Chinatown community.

From the plans, the park looks fun!  And it’s appropriate for the site. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product, and I’m happy for Chinatown. Now, when can we get some more great ideas from the community for the Rose Kennedy Greenway?

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