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Letter: No to Parklets Project on Shawmut Avenue

Griff Gall writes about a proposed parklets project in the Eight Streets neighborhood.

Dear Editor,

I'm writing because I wanted to share my concerns about the city's proposal to instal a new parklet at the corner of Shawmut Avenue and Hanson Street.

As one of the first locations for the new boston.PARKLETS project, this deck structure would replace two South End residential parking spots directly in front of the Wholy Grain Bakery. The city of Boston is modeling this project after programs in other cities including San Francisco. These structures are designed to provide green space for retail establishments in commercial or retail urban settings. They were also inspired by a protest in San Francisco where art students placed quarters in a parking meter for two hours, rolled out sod, brought in a park bench and a potted tree and created a temporary park.

Mayor Menino's office is promoting these parklets as a way to encourage people to rethink the need for their cars. Menino has been quoted as saying "The car is no longer king."

This sentiment may be applicable to areas like Downtown Crossing, the Financial District, Copley Square or even neighborhoods such as Alston or Brighton, however the Eight Streets section of the South End is a very residential area. Many of us work outside of the city, off of the public transportation system and there for our cars are essential. Several blog posts and articles written about the subject mention that there are 8,000 "metered" parking spots in Boston. This fact is irrelevant to the proposal on Shawmut Ave. because they will remove two resident parking spots, not metered or visitor spots. I would be curious to know how many resident parking spots are in the South End, and how many South End parking permits have been issued. 

One of the reasons often listed for these parklet structures is the addition of green space in an urban setting. Shawmut Ave is a quite, residential street with several parks near by. Many of the residents along Shawmut do a beautiful job keeping the gardens in the front of their buildings maintained and "green." A parklet is not needed in this location for the addition of green space. Why is this location being considered then? Part of the city's mission is to support local business owners by partnering with them on these new public spaces.

The owner of the Wholy Grain Bakery is very enthusiastic over the exposure this project  will receive, and hopefully that exposure will lead to more customers for his bakery. The Wholy Grain currently has outdoor seating on a small patio in the front of the bakery and on a deck and in the garden behind the bakery. (As a side note, when the bakery was proposed, we were told that there would be no seating out back, then a large deck was built to accommodate seating.) This parklet would provide addition seating for the Wholy Grain. This additional seating is the main value of this city funded project. One of the concerns held by myself and others who live in our building, is the potential for people to hangout on the structure late in the evening. The structure is across the street from the Franklin Cafe and would be an ideal space for patrons of the Franklin to smoke. The structure could also become a place for others to hangout, late in the evening, after the Wholy Grain is closed. 

The additional noise and foot traffic, in addition to the loss of two resident parking spaces has many of us concerned. I'm also concerned because it seems difficult to find the appropriate venues to voice opposition to this project. I over heard the owner of the Wholy Grain saying to a representative from city hall that the neighbors were supportive of this project despite the fact the one of the residents in my building had just spoken with him about her concerns and told him that she was opposed to this moving forward. When I spoke with that representative, she was defensive about the project and continued to suggest that they were planing on bringing in this structure for "parking day," the third Friday in September. 

I just want to make sure people in the Eight Streets neighborhood know about this project and really think about the value of this proposed parklet. This location just does not seem to fit the true intention of this type of structure.

Thank you,

Griff Gall

Would you like to submit a letter to the editor? Email southend@patch.com to share your thoughts with the South End online community. 

mike August 13, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Grill, your letter is well written and you state your concerns clearly, well done. I understand your opposition to the project on the issues of parking and well loitering, I suppose. However, I must disagree with your position. Shawmut may not be an appropriate place for the parklet but I for one support the project and welcome it in the south end. I sense a touch of NIMBY in your letter and can't help but think that if this project were to have selected sites in back bay we would hear groaning from the south end about being overlooked. I have been greatly disheartened by the nervousness of south enders regarding use of public space. It is up to us to embrace and highlight progressive uses of public space in the south end for leisure and community use. ex: recently the chains dropped on worcester sq. which i highly applaud. i think its time to at least try to embrace this new attitude of actually using these beatiful streets we live on and make the south end even more attractive by encouraging community feel and turning pavement into landscape. As I said, I don't claim to know whats best for your corner.. but lets not immediately fall back on "but people will be using it!" well good, that's why its there. lets put our collective energy towards keeping it clean and beautiful for all to enjoy. I'd love to see a few of these pop up in my section. and if it were my bakery I'd have a vested interest in keeping the it clean.. hint, hint wholy grain. Respectfully, -Mike
Al Lovata August 13, 2012 at 11:04 PM
While I applaud the effort to increase public green space in urban settings, I believe that the key point in Griff's letter is that two residential spaces will be lost at a corner that is one half block from Ringold Park and one block from Peters Park, both visible from that corner. I appreciate that as a pilot project, having a willing business owner looking after the parklet is a bonus; but the impact on the quality of life in the South End will be negligible. SOWA would be a more appropriate part of the South End for this, given the lack of trees and public spaces on many of the blocks. Respectfully, Al
Erica August 14, 2012 at 01:04 PM
I look forward to this change to the neighborhood. As long as we work together to keep our area clean, green space is always better than a parking space.... I don't think the City of Boston needs to cater to cars anymore than it already does. This is an exciting change for the South End, let's just hope its executed properly and maintained.
mike August 14, 2012 at 03:32 PM
SOWA would be prime location.
michael August 14, 2012 at 06:09 PM
I have to agree with Griff. (or at least in terms of the South End, I can see parklets benefits in a concrete urban area) The South End is already an amazingly neighborhood with tons of green space!, Instead of investing in something like parklets, why not invest in cleaning up the REAL green spaces of the south end? Blackstone square, and Franklin square could be AMAZING beautiful spaces, if the city took the time to help make them such. I mean really, is a makeshift "parklet" in a parking space really the same as a true park? they are right down the street! I find the whole thing absurdly redundant. there is so much more we could do with the real bones of the neighborhood.
Sara Jacobi August 14, 2012 at 07:14 PM
It sounds like there are people on both sides of the issue here. In the abstract, I think we can all agree green space is better than pavement. On the other hand, it sounds like this specific location may cause harm those who own cars in this neighborhood. So does the good of the green space outweigh the harm caused to those residents stuck trying to find parking in the area? Or should the city spend its money improving the larger parkets instead of a tiny parklet? Weigh in!
BosGuy August 14, 2012 at 08:01 PM
I love the idea of "parklets" but I question the location in front of the wholy grain over places that have far more of an urban feel and no outdoor seating. For example, how about the projects on Tremont across from 28 Degrees and Masa or Tremont and Mass Ave?

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