A Powerful Partnership for the Park: Celebrating Five Years of the Greenway Business Improvement District (BID)
Nearly five years ago, business and civic leaders, elected officials, and the nonprofit Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy worked together to stabilize funding for one of the Commonwealth’s most treasured assets – the Rose Kennedy Greenway. A sustainable, fair, and long-term solution, led by A Better City, culminated in a landmark funding agreement between the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), the City of Boston, the Greenway Conservancy, and abutter properties who came together through the newly formed Greenway Business Improvement District (BID). This agreement allows abutters to contribute directly towards Greenway costs, providing foundational support for maintenance, horticulture, and enhancements of the park and allowing the Conservancy to concentrate fundraising and earned income efforts on world class public art, inclusive programming, and ecological organic horticulture.
To say these efforts taken by abutting properties convened by A Better City and others were forward-thinking is an understatement, particularly in light of the economic strain the pandemic has put on the Conservancy and its partners. Throughout the first five-year term, The Greenway BID has provided operating relief and allowed the Conservancy to continue to maintain this beautiful space at a high level during a time when city residents desperately needed access to open and lush green spaces.
This past July, elected officials joined the Greenway BID, Conservancy, MassDOT and community members in celebrating the completion of North Meadow on the Greenway. This event was the culmination of a collaborative planning effort led by the Boston Planning and Development Agency. This vacant lot has been transformed into a green respite from the city’s flow of traffic. Nestled in the nexus of the West and North Ends, the park breaks up an urban heat island, processes stormwater, and provides natural beauty for visitors. As the northern terminus of the park, North Meadow is both a gateway to The Greenway and a pocket of open space for residents and visitors to the surrounding neighborhoods in the West End and North End. Reflecting a commitment to making thoughtful enhancements along the entirety of The Greenway, Greenway BID members provided and leveraged enhancement funds to make this project and placemaking improvement possible.
The BID has also shown leadership by recognizing the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on some of our most socially vulnerable communities, including Chinatown residents. In partnership with Chinatown Main Street, funding was provided for weekly traditional Lion Dances designed to reintroduce visitors to Chinatown’s hard hit restaurants and businesses.
The Greenway BID was also there to support our “Breathe Life Together” Block Party at Dewey Square to celebrate Rob “ProBlack” Gibbs’s mural. The event, co-curated with AfroDesiaCity featured a roller skating rink hosted by Dorchester’s own Chez-Vous Rollerskating Rink. With performances and art by local creators, the event focused on celebrating the inclusive nature of the art and The Greenway as a resource for diverse audiences.
The Greenway BID also supported and funded the Rediscover The Greenway Programmatic Series, a collection of 50+ new programs for the 2021 Greenway Season. Rediscover The Greenway both activated the downtown core as workers and tourists return to Boston, and supported community arts activations that brought people together in support of organizations that have had a very difficult year. Through a boosted engagement and events program, the Conservancy and BID helped to enliven The Greenway and bring vibrancy to Boston’s downtown as our city continued to safely reopen. Programming ranged from caroling at The Greenway Carousel, movie nights, Tuesday Tunes, and other activations.
Of course, people are most welcomed when the spaces they experience are safe, active and well cared for. Early on, the Greenway BID identified the need for an asset study for the park. This State of Good Repair study enabled the Conservancy, again with BID support, to begin the process of not only GIS coding for all park assets but the development of maintenance plans for those assets. The BID further catalyzed the modernization of the Conservancy’s efforts with the support of a Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS) program to effectively manage these assets in an efficient manner.
As a linear park above transportation infrastructure and along Boston’s Downtown Waterfront, the climate crisis makes The Greenway particularly vulnerable. The first generation of adaptations identified in our Greenway BID-funded Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment, have already been constructed. This includes waterproofing the vaults of our fountain systems, which will ensure parkgoers enjoy these spectacular features for years to come.
In five years, the Greenway Business Improvement District has helped to improve and expand the park, to make it more inclusive by supporting diverse programming, to partner on its sustainable landscape approach, and to contribute to Downtown Boston’s recovery from the pandemic. As we collectively move to the first renewal of the BID, it is important to note the accomplishments of this outstanding partnership.
Certainly, all of these efforts have had positive impacts for the business community surrounding the park, as is the intent of all BIDs. However, the leadership shown by the Greenway BID has demonstrated a commitment to decision making that is centered around ensuring that their investments improve the park experience for the widest and most inclusive group of people possible.
Ever since the Greenway BID was formed and approved nearly 5 years ago, the Rose Kennedy Greenway, as well as the people, pollinators, and small businesses that enjoy it, have benefited from a powerful partnership between the BID, City of Boston, Greenway Conservancy, and MassDOT. Together, we’ve worked to ensure The Greenway remains a vibrant public space and economic driver as a key platform that fosters the ability of Boston residents, businesses, tourists, and the public sector to come together. We at the Conservancy can not wait to see what we accomplish together in the next five years and beyond.