Two years ago, the Massachusetts Trustees of Reservation (MTR) submitted the only bid to Massport’s call for a private/public partner to come forward and help fund the design and construction of Piers Park Phase III.
The dilapidated pier adjacent to Massport’s award-winning Piers Park and the future Piers Park Phase II is being eyed by Massport as the future site of a third waterfront park.
Last week, MTR’s Nick Black and Amy Eynatian briefed residents on where Massport and the MTR are in the process.
“We’re going around talking to a number of neighborhood associations about our plans,” said Black. “The reason why we’re here tonight is an effort that we’ve been working on for about three or four years now to do something different and create something new within the City of Boston. What we’re really trying to do is create a network of green public open space that is an iconic world class type of destination–a park that really supports the community’s needs and provides access to the waterfront in a public way. We’re also trying to really bring some value to Boston’s climate resiliency goals and the issues we face in terms of storm surge and sea level rise. We’re all trying to do this in a financially feasible manner which would be great.”
MTR operates 120 miles of protected coastline, which includes over 60 miles of trails, and a bunch of beaches and all sorts of other natural habitats in the state.
Black said Massport has been working with the community and other stakeholders over the last two to three years to build out Piers Park Phase II. It was around this time Black said the MTR started having conversations with Massport about their waterfront initiative.
“A number of years ago we talked about the possibility of what would happen with Phase III, which is this rotted-out pier that sticks off the end of Piers Park. For us it’s a really amazing location. It’s centrally located right in the heart of the harbor and we think it could provide a really great connection point between East Boston and the city as a whole. It also has a fantastic history.”
Black said MTR spent a lot of 2019 working with Massport and others to really investigate the site and understand what the conditions were so MTR could start to piece together what the possibilities would be for a waterfront park that is active and engaging.
“So one of the places that we turn to for inspiration is Brooklyn Bridge Park,” said Black. “For those of you who may not have been there this is a series of five piers along the Brooklyn waterfront that overlooks the skyline in Manhattan. There’s a lot of similarities between what you see in this old industrial waterfront (in Eastie) and Brooklyn. Unfortunately we only have one pier to work with, not five.”
Black said as a result MTR really started to focus on what New Yorkers call Pier One in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
“This park is actually built into the footprints of the old pier that offers a wide variety of experiences for people and is a really close comparison to what we have opportunity wise at Piers Park Phase III,” said Black. “So this is really where we started our thinking in terms of what we would like to see happen at this location in East Boston.”
Black said MTR is looking to build a park that’s both robust and resilient in Eastie.
“And what that means to us is that it can stand up to the elements,” said Black. “We’ve seen a lot of issues with not only storm surges in increasing frequency but also tidal flooding that’s happening on a regular basis, both in East Boston and across the city. The situation is probably just going to get worse. So we have to build a place, mindful of all of those challenges and also a place that can redevelop some of the ecology along the coast.”
Black said MTR will start a community process to bring the community together to build this park.
“We have a few ideas in terms of the direction that we want to go but we’re very excited about the community process to really start and have conversations with people in terms of what they would want to see there,” he said. “You’ll probably start to see a lot of us over the coming weeks. We’re going to try to be a presence here as much as possible, because we want to really hear from folks who would use this park.”
Eynatian, who is a Project Manager for the Waterfront Initiatives at MTR and an Eagle Hill resident, said the design phase for the future park will take the better part of the next year.
“We want to make sure we really have a chance to hear from the community about what you’d like to see happen there so if the design can reflect that,” said Eynatian. “So things like, what type of programming you’d be interested in, what kind of concerns you might have about the project as well as increasing access to the water so there’s a way for residents to come down and really engage with the harbor at the park.”
Eynatian said MTR will be hosting a series of larger community meetings where MTR will invite residents to hear a little bit more about the project in more detail.
“This will give us the opportunity to really give folks a chance to engage in conversation about what you’d like to see at a new, free, open public park in East Boston,” she said.
The first in a series of meetings MTR is planning to host will be in January.
“So as the year goes on, I’m hoping that in the summer we can do some more creative in-person programs,” said Eynatian. “We’re hopeful to be able to get out and engage with you in person but in the meantime we’ll be doing a lot of different virtual opportunities and putting together some different ways to give us feedback. This is so folks can either join us live in meetings or give us feedback to make sure we can gather input from as many folks as we can.”