By John Lynds
Last Thursday, Mayor Martin Walsh stood in Central Square in East Boston, the site of an ongoing $7.8 million renovation by the city, and released his $2.08 billion five-year capital budget plan.
Flanked by his cabinet and Eastie’s elected officials, Walsh made a commitment to start, continue and complete several projects around the neighborhood.
“This Capital Plan prioritizes investments in Boston’s neighborhoods and is a direct reflection of the feedback we received from thousands of residents who contributed ideas to our planning processes,” said Mayor Walsh. “I am proud that we are able to put the wheels in motion to begin investing in projects that are important to Boston’s people, and that will prepare our City for a year of groundbreaking success.”
In his five year capital plan, Walsh earmarked funding to begin work on design and construction of a new police station in Eastie, the Paris Street Pool, Noyes Park, Engines 5 fire station, and the McArdle Bridge. Funding has also been set aside to complete projects already under construction like the Paris Street Community Center, Central Square and new windows for the East Boston High School.
Walsh said the Capital Plan is the result of listening to residents in Eastie and across the city. The suggestions and feedback from residents, said Walsh, is what drove the five-year plan.
The city will spend $5 million at the Paris Street Pool. The money will be used for a complete building renovation including upgrades to the mechanical systems, bathrooms and locker rooms, pool deck, lighting, and entryway. The project will strengthen the connection between the pool building and the adjacent park by opening up the pool as both an indoor/outdoor pool in the summer months.
“The renovation of Paris Street Pool is something that will make me very happy,” said longtime EBHS swim coach Dave Arinella. The pool is used by the high school during the swim season. “None of us have to be told that East Boston can not flourish without a dedicated commitment to our seniors and our youth as well as all of our residents. The preservation of our parks and open space is necessary and appreciated. We all here want to give a shout out to Mayor Walsh for not forgetting about us on this side of the water and making East Boston ‘highly desirable’. I am confident that we can achieve the balance between development and neighborhood stability. This is goal of Mayor Walsh and these projects are just one more step in the realization of this goal.”
The city also plans to spend $25.5 million on the design and construction of a new police station in Eastie–something the neighborhood has been asking City Hall for decades. The initial plan will be to design a state-of-the-art facility at the City Yards in Eagle Square to replace the aging police station on Meridian Street.
The city will spend $1.925 million on repairs to the Engine 5 fire station on Saratoga Street. The scope of the work there includes roof replacement, masonry re-pointing, gutter replacement, waterproofing, flashing repairs, window and door repairs and drainage improvement
The Noyes Park project will cost the city $3.31 million and the community process has already begun with two more additional meeting to be held before a final design is agreed upon. There project will include a rehabilitation of the entire park, including updating the play lot, basketball courts, fields and lighting.
The city will also spend $3 million to rehab the McArdle Bridge that connects Eastie to Chelsea via Meridian Street.
“I’m excited for the Mayor to be here in East Boston to release his Fiscal Year 2018-2022 Capital Plan,” said City Councilor Sal LaMattina. “For me whenever the Mayor releases the capital budget it always feels like Christmas. It always loaded with some goodies for my entire district. You are continuing to give my residents some good presents and for that Mayor Walsh I thank you. I was amazed at all the money that has been spent and will be spent in the coming years in East Boston. We are standing here in Central Square which will be the site of new park and improved roads. But when you look around East Boston and you see items like the Paris Street Community Center and in the fall we’ll start the Paris Street Pool project so I’m very excited.”
LaMattina also thanked the Mayor for his commitment for finally getting the project to design and construct the new police station in Eastie.
“This was something we have been talking about for 30 years and the Mayor said he would get it done and he is getting it done,” said LaMattina.
Walsh said he chose to unveil his Capital Plan in Eastie in Central Square because it one of the largest square renovations in the city. The project should be completed this spring and the city will have spent close to $8 million for urban redesign and improvements for the square including the intersections at Meridian and Saratoga Streets, and Porter and Bennington Streets as well as a new park in the heart of the square.
“I want to thank the Mayor for all of this investment in our neighborhood,” said East Boston Main Streets Director Max Gruner. “We are here in Central Square, the largest urban park renovations in the City of Boston. This park is going to be incredible. It’s going to be beautiful. It’s going to be activated by this community. Look at all the small businesses around the park. I want to thank them for their courage and patients (throughout this project).”
Also being completed this year as part of the Capital Plan is the Paris Street Community Center. The $12.37 million project has included interior facility repairs and renovations, upgrades of all mechanical systems and boilers, windows, exterior and interior door replacements, athletic facility improvements, tele-data upgrades, and new furniture and equipment.
The city has also spent $4.7 million to replace all the windows at East Boston High School.