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.
Would you like to submit a letter to the editor? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts with the South End online community.