3/23/23 by Jordan Pagkalinawan
The city of Boston was awarded a $1.8 million federal grant by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Reconnecting Communities program. Now, officials are exploring the possibility of building a community park above the Massachusetts Turnpike in Chinatown. If approved, the park, currently known as Parcel 21, is expected to be built between Shawmut Avenue and Washington Street, connecting parts of Chinatown currently separated by the Turnpike.
Boston Transportation Department director of planning Vineet Gupta detailed the impacts of the proposed park, citing the end of a “longstanding physical division right through the middle of Chinatown.”
“This project changes that, from what’s essentially a demolition of the community to reconnecting it there,” Gupta told the Globe. “We think that’s long overdue, and we think that this grant will provide an opportunity to mend that deep scarring in the community.”
Though there is no estimation of how much space the park will take nor how much the project will cost, there are multiple motivations and benefits of an air park.
The project comes at a time when air-rights projects are beginning to take shape in Boston. Among such projects currently under construction are a future CarGurus headquarters along Mass. Ave. and the Fenway Center, a lab tower stationed above the pike near Fenway Park.
Another motivation for officials to get this project started is the need for more climate-friendly initiatives in Chinatown, according to the city’s environmental project manager, Zoe Davis.
“Whether it’s affordable housing or green space or a combination of those things, it’s ensuring that 10 years, 50 years down the line, we have a foundation to ensure that there are benefits for Chinatown residents,” she said.
The project is still in its early stages, with the full funds expected to come in over the course of six months. Once the money is received, the city will be able to hire a project manager to oversee developments during the course of the two-year grant. City officials will also examine certain short-term improvements, including the widening of sidewalks and other intersection upgrades.
Gupta and Davis note that the process will be one filled with transparency and accountability.
“We want to make sure that community groups feel that their voices will be heard, and that their input will be integrated into the final solutions,” he said.