Boston Common, a historic 50-acre public green space that once doubled as a bustling cow pasture for Bostonians up until the early 19th century, is set to be treated to a multitude of new additions and upgrades as part of an ambitious master plan that aims to “serve the people of Boston and visitors alike while protecting this special place for years to come.” Proposed enhancements, recently unveiled in a draft of the master plan, include an enlarged and enhanced Visitor Information Center, athletic areas with improved flexibility and accessibility, a dog run, and numerous revamps to the Frog Pond, a large water feature that serves as an ice-skating rink in the winter, a splash pad in the summer, and a reflecting pool during the spring and fall.
Located opposite Charles Street from the smaller and more manicured Boston Public Garden and flanked by numerous historic buildings including the Massachusetts State House, Boston Common was established in 1634 and is the oldest city park in the United States. Managed by Boston Parks and Recreation, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1987. The Common is also part of the Emerald Necklace, a linear sequence of parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted that comprises roughly half of Boston’s parkland and links both the Common and Public Garden to sprawling Franklin Park on the outskirts of the city.
While Boston Common has gone through numerous changes over its nearly 400-year history, the $28 million makeover outlined in the Boston Common Master Plan involves some of the most significant and sought-after alterations and upgrades to the park in decades. Funds for the proposed improvements came from the sale of the old Winthrop Square Garage in Boston’s Financial District, which was demolished in 2017 and is being replaced with a (recently reduced) skyscraper designed by Handel Architects. Five of the $28 million dedicated to implementing the master plan will be set aside for maintenance funding.
“In the urban core, it’s so important for us not to just have green space, but to have really good, active green space, and green space people can be proud of,” Boston.com reported Mayor Marty Walsh as saying during a September 16 meeting. “What all of you are doing with the plan design is just amazing.”
The “all of you” Mayor Walsh was referring is the core collaborative team behind the master plan, which includes city park officials, the nonprofit park preservation group Friends of the Public Garden, and representatives from interdisciplinary design and engineering firm Weston & Sampson. The planning process, which has included numerous public outreach sessions, first kicked off in the spring of 2019 and is expected to conclude this winter.
Other proposed improvements include increased wayfinding, new public restrooms in multiple sections of the park, additional seating in identified areas, improved pathways, and a refreshed mid-block park entrance on Charles Street complete with a new ornamental fence and “historic replica” bollards. “As you cross in, you know you’re going into somewhere special,” Cheri Ruane, vice president and landscape architecture practice leader at Weston & Sampson, explained to Boston.com. “The Common is America’s oldest public park and worthy of more celebratory gateways and entrances.”
The third installment of a virtual public forum series is scheduled for tomorrow, September 29.