If Wynn Can Do It, Maybe Charlestown Can, Too

Nothing has been more controversial lately regarding the Bunker Hill Development than the status of trees on the site and the inclusion and saving of mature trees in the development.

Yet, not even a half-mile away, one developer utilized an innovative – though very expensive – way to bring a forest to the Encore Boston Harbor site virtually overnight. Now, State Rep. Dan Ryan would like to start a discussion about how those methods on a smaller scale could be used to solve some of the controversy around trees.

“The discussion on tree canopy and removal of mature trees has certainly taken up a lot of oxygen in the past few weeks,” he said. “Trees and landscaping is definitely an issue that needs some attention moving forward. There are creative solutions that should be explored as we continue to build quality housing for our neighbors. I’m open to finding ways and funding sources to ensure a mature tree canopy where it is realistically feasible.”

Ryan said he had learned about Encore’s extensive efforts to start their resort with a mature tree canopy full of evergreens, oaks and any number of other species on day one. To do that cost anywhere from $15 to $20 million, but it was an effective way to introduce mature trees to the landscape, nonetheless.

Encore spent more than a year, and millions of dollars, scouring the landscape near Buffalo, NY, to land mature evergreens to plant in front of, and around, their building. They also hopped all over the landscape in New Jersey to find a unique 45-foot-tall Red Oak that is a focal point to their Oak Plaza in the casino’s landscape plan. It weighed 19,000 pounds and was transported to Encore and re-planted successfully, according to Patrick Chadwick – director of horticulture and floral for Encore – in a 2019 Everett Independent news article.

Ryan said approaching the Bunker Hill landscape with the same gusto and expense may not be possible at all, as it is a mixed-income residential development and not a resort casino property. However, he said he’d like to open a conversation with the developers about using some of the same techniques at Bunker Hill.

Addie Grady, of Leggat McCall, said they are willing to entertain any idea of the sort and look into it more fully.

“Replacing public housing units and environmental justice go hand in hand, and this project will achieve this as an exemplary model for sustainability in housing development,” she said in a statement. “The trees and public open spaces will continue to be an integral part of the project’s success as we continue to take a disciplined, sustainable approach driven by science and under the advisement of experienced and trained professionals to both preserve and plant as many trees as possible. We welcome all ideas, however, factors such utilities and stormwater management as well as public safety and handicapped accessibility will continue to be mandated considerations as part of the planning process as we move through a phase by phase tree assessment. We look forward to continuing our work with Turn-it-Around on this issue and other planning issues as they have been instrumental youth voices on our Community Center planning committee and during public meetings addressing building design.”

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