By John Lynds
Business owners, residents, and East Boston drivers all breathed a collective sigh of relief this week when the Central Square rehab project wrapped up. After two years of disruptions to traffic patterns, parking and the square’s central park, Mayor Martin Walsh joined Eastie’s elected officials and community members to officially cut the ribbon on the $20 million square and park rehab.
In the end the disruptions were worth the wait as Central Square and Bertulli Park have been transformed into a beautifully streets-caped and landscaped jewel in the middle of the neighborhood.
“I am thrilled to see such an amazing transformation here in Bertulli Park,” said Mayor Walsh. “Concrete has been replaced with a beautiful, green parkland and a host of other amenities that welcomes East Boston residents to visit, relax and enjoy Central Square. I want to thank all of our partners in the East Boston community who worked side by side with the City of Boston to make this renovated park a reality.”
After several years of planning and construction the park now includes 97 new trees and related green infrastructure, updated pavement, new LED lighting and seating, and new bicycle facilities. Streets surrounding the park have been redefined to ensure safe and consistent roadway conditions. For example, sidewalks have been widened to make transversing the square easier for pedestrians and traffic patterns around the park have been changed to combat congestion.
Additional new features include a wide pedestrian promenade on the Meridian Street side with a double row of trees and several benches. An elliptically shaped granite wall that also offers additional seating separates the more active areas of the park from a large parcel of green space known as Bertulli Park. There are now shortened pedestrian street crossings between Bertulli Park, the East Boston Social Center and surrounding businesses and residences. The entire park is handicap assessable with ADA compliant ramps and sidewalks.
The city also added a polished and more prominently displayed veteran’s memorial closer to the Social Centers’ side of the park.
The installation of green infrastructure in the form of permeable pavement that allows storm water to feed the roots of the new trees instead of sending it to drainage pipes and Boston Harbor.
“All I can say is wow, this is amazing…amazing,” said City Councilor Sal LaMattina. “This project here the community worked together. I remember the first meeting and I told people, ‘look we are going to design something that will be here for the next 100 years”. This is East Boston history so I just want to take this opportunity to thank Mayor Walsh for keeping this a priority.”
Rep. Adrian Madaro said the project has marked a transformation of the area.
“If you look around this is clearly the largest central business districts in our neighborhood,” said Madaro. “After six years and $20 million here we are in this beautiful new square. I just want to thank the mayor and the councilors for advocating for this project all along because this is really a game changer for East Boston. This will really be a lasting legacy for the mayor and our community.”
Boston Transportation Commissioner Gina Fiandaca said the design prioritized safety for Eastie residents.
“Restoring the basic beauty of the park, enhancing it with contemporary elements, and using current techniques to prioritize safe access between the park and the surrounding area, will ensure that Central Square continues to be a popular destination point for the East Boston community for years to come,” said Fiandaca.
During the design process, the Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) and the Boston Water Sewer Commission (BWSC) worked with the East Boston Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) Environmental Youth Crew to study how Central Square could include green infrastructure to help manage storm-water and improve climate resiliency. TheBWSC then partnered with the City of Boston’s Parks and Recreation, Transportation, and Public Works Departments to include green infrastructure elements.
Now, Bertulli Park has become a BWSC storm-water demonstration project.
BWSC worked to make the design mimic nature, wherein the ground soaks up precipitation–countering the effects of typical urban development with hard impermeable surfaces, which can lead to polluted storm-water runoff. Central Square was redesigned using porous asphalt and concrete that, along with permeable pavers, allow for normal traffic flow and parking while providing a pathway for storm-water to reach the ground beneath.
“Boston Water and Sewer Commission has an unwavering commitment to keep our waterways clean, and we are honored to be a part of Mayor Walsh’s vision for a more sustainable Boston,” said Executive Director of BWSC Henry Vitale. “Green infrastructure in Central Square will improve the quality of storm-water entering nearby Boston Harbor, while creating a beautiful streets-cape that East Boston residents will no doubt enjoy.”
Kate Bowditch from Charles River Watershed Association added that it was good to see this project in such a public place where people can see it and learn from it.
“Boston needs lots more projects like this, especially with sea level rise and heavier rain storms increasing our flood risk,” she said. “One of the best parts of this whole process was working with the youth crew from the East Boston Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH)). They really got excited by these ideas, learned a lot, and were tremendous advocates, making presentations to the community, and to the project team and city departments. They deserve a lot of credit for making this a reality.”
NOAH Executive Director Phil Giffee said he was proud that his organization’s youth crew was so involved in giving feedback on these important issues that led to an attractive, revitalized public space for people in Eastie.
Mayor Martin Walsh, Rep. Adrian Madaro and City Councilor Sal LaMattina join city officials and East Boston residents to cut the ribbon on the newly rehabbed Central Square and Bertulli Park.
Mayor Martin Walsh, flanked by state and city officials, said he was thrilled by the transformation of the park and square.
City Councilor Sal LaMattina thanked the mayor for keeping the project a city priority.
Rep. Adrian Madaro addresses the crowd during the ribbon cutting.