Planning for 2010 – gardens in a parkland

21, Nov, 2009 Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy

PLANNING FOR 2010 –gardens in a parkland

In our previous post we talked about the challenges and opportunities the Conservancy’s Park Operations staff will address in 2010.

In this entry, we look more closely at the Dewey Square Parks,  just north of South Station (formerly called Parcels 19-22). The Dewey Square Parks comprise two segments, each with defining characteristics.

The Greenway is an urban parkland.  Anyone strolling through the two spaces between Oliver and Congress Streets (Parcels 19 and 21) will quickly recognize that these areas are unlike any other part of the Greenway.  Here you have entered a garden.  Walking further south past the large Central Artery Tunnel Air Intake structure, between Congress and Summer Streets you will find Dewey Square Plaza, surrounded by a busy commercial and transportation center.  This area invites creative, seasonal public programs and activities.  This summer and fall Dewey Square Plaza and the adjacent lawn drew residents, office workers, families and tourists alike to the Boston Public Market.


Some background on how we came to this place in the continuing evolution of this great new public space. . . In April 2007, following the end of the Garden Under Glass plan and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority’s (MTA) subsequent de-designation of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s (Mass Hort) authorization to develop these parcels, MTA (the owner of the land), the Boston Redevelopment Authority (the City agency responsible for land use planning), the Conservancy, and Mass Hort agreed to  a three-phase improvement process for the 3.4 acres that, otherwise, would have been left as an unimproved grassy area. They were as follows:

  • Phase 1 – Create temporary gardens – led by Mass Hort
  • Phase 2 – Create enhancements to parkland and provide interim armature to support and experiment with public activities – led by Conservancy
  • Phase 3 – Land use planning with substantial public process to determine long-term use of the spaces – led by Boston Redevelopment Authority

The resulting Phase 1 garden design was done by Halvorson Design Partnership.  During a very difficult financial period for the organization, Mass Hort installed irrigation and plant material in the spring/summer 2008 within a License Agreement between the MTA and the Conservancy.  Mass Hort, its generous donors, volunteers, and the MA Master Gardeners Association deserve the thanks of Boston residents and visitors alike for beautifying a key segment of the Greenway at a crucial time in the development of the parks.

In August of 2008 the State Legislature gave the responsibility to the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway Conservancy to manage, operate, program and improve the entire Greenway as a coherent entity managed to high standards of care.   The Conservancy assumed the maintenance responsibility for the land upon the signing of its lease agreement with the MTA in February 2009.

Throughout this past spring and summer the Conservancy worked diligently to maintain the gardens in Dewey Square Park.   Following current “best practices” in sustainable landscape design, the Conservancy did not replace or add more annuals. (Current best practices rely less on plants that must be replaced every year, and more on perennial plantings that grow back year after year.)


Following extensive soil evaluation, ground water percolation tests to find the source of water pooling in many areas of the gardens, the professionals with whom we consulted concluded that remediation is needed to provide a suitable growing environment in which plants can thrive and be maintained organically.

As we address work that must be done in the years ahead, the Conservancy is talking with leading horticultural experts to help transform the Phase 1 gardens into a model of four-season, sustainable urban landscape design.   We are thinking through infrastructure needed to support public programming in Dewey Square Plaza and the adjacent lawn.  At the same time, we are gathering ideas from local residents, abutting property owners, office tenants, retailers, neighborhood associations, garden clubs and other interested groups.

As part of this process to get public input, please join us for an upcoming public open meeting of the Greenway Leadership Council (January 13, 2010 and April 14, 2010. Time and location to be announced. Visit our website for more information).  Or if you would like to share your ideas from your home or office, visit our info page or contact us at [email protected].

Thank you!