Plans for the Greenway: Markets by Memorials?

May 11, 2012 |
Armenian Heritage Park  http://www.armenianheritagepark.org/

Image courtesy of Armenian Heritage Park (www.armenianheritagepark.org)

In the last week, two different groups have offered up, shall we say, contrasting visions for the Rose Kennedy Greenway. One, the Armenian Heritage Park at the intersection of Atlantic and Cross Street, is almost complete, according to the North End Waterfront. Meanwhile, a block away, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (Mass DOT) is considering four different proposals for Parcel 9, the odd triangular strip along Blackstone Street. As the Boston Globe puts it, there are “two [proposals] for commercial and residential buildings; one for a hotel; and one for the Boston Museum, the long-planned gateway to historical Boston and New England.”

Let’s consider the juxtaposition. The Armenian Heritage Park—which, as the supporters are careful to point out on their website, “is being constructed at no expense to the taxpayer,” has two parts:

– “The Labyrinth, a circular winding path paved in granite set in stone, celebrates life’s journey.”

– “The Abstract Sculpture, a split dodecahedron mounted above a reflecting pool, commemorates the immigrant experience… The Sculpture is dedicated to lives lost during the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923 and all genocides that have followed.”

Sculpture  (ArmenianHeritagePark.org)

Image courtesy of armenianheritagepark.org

Then, we come to Parcel 9, where we could have commercial and residential buildings, a hotel, or a museum that would explain the “city’s ever-changing religious foundations, its intellectual leadership, its immigrant traditions, and its storied politics,” as the Globe put it. Let’s take a look at the fantastically varied, strikingly original plans proposed for the site!

Blackstone Market mixed use commercial/ residential. Image courtesy of MassDOT.

Look, a two-story building with roof gardens. And a giant glowing red cow. I guess there wasn’t enough room for a Citgo sign.

Normandy Partners Hotel proposal (Mass DOT)

Normandy Partners Hotel proposal. Image courtesy of Mass DOT.

Look! It’s a box, with another box on top of it! And more trees on a roof.

Image courtesy of greenspaceboston.com

A large box with a shorter box next to it. The trees are on the ground this time.

Boston Museum

… and a glass box with trees on top, with colored walls to give it a vague resemblance to an Ikea showroom.

Look, Parcel 9 is public land, no matter how long and skinny and awkward (and profitable) it might be. In the past, Boston has decided that the area around Faneuil Hall is an appropriate place for memorials: in addition to the Armenian Heritage Park, the New England Holocaust Memorial is just a block from Parcel 9 at the corner of Congress and Hanover streets.

None of the various proposals are going to change the cityscape around Parcel 9 much; they’re all low and brown and boxy (except for the Boston Museum, which would be glassy and boxy). Some of them would be a lot more profitable than others, I’m sure.

But out of the four proposals, only the Boston Museum continues a major Rose Kennedy Greenway theme: celebrating Boston’s heritage and honoring the people who have been here since all of our revolutionary hullaballoo. The Greenway’s North End “Leaning Rail Timeline” and the immigrants’ quotes at Rowes Wharf are particularly interesting; find out more about them here.

Remember, Parcel 9 is part of our front yard; it’s what Boston shows the world (and a very large percentage of the world seems to visit Faneuil Hall in the summer.) We have the Freedom Trail, and Faneuil Hall’s mall with occasional colonial accents, but we don’t have institution that tells visitors about what’s happened in Boston since 1800. A lot has changed in the past 212 years.

We’re talking about developing public land alongside one of Boston’s most visited tourist attractions and most visible parks, near memorials to millions of people who were murdered and starved because of their heritage. A Boston museum would honor the heritage of all Bostonians; a glowing red cow won’t.

The Armenian Heritage Park will be dedicated on Tuesday, May 22, at 11 am. It will be beautiful.

Meg Muckenhoupt is the author of Boston’s Gardens & Green Spaces.  She is a freelance environmental and travel writer. Her articles have appeared in The Boston Globe, the Boston PhoenixBoston Magazine, the Time Out Boston guide, and many other publications. She holds a certificate in Field Botany from the New England Wild Flower Society.

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