BRA Looks to Pay Major Attention to Navy Yard Open Spaces,Facilities

By Seth Daniel

Following a very productive meeting in the Navy Yard with the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) last Wednesday, July 6, the agency has released a very ambitious Request for Interest (RFI) to activate the Navy Yard to include anything from public art projects on the water to a Farmer’s Market and new parks.

The Navy Yard is widely praised for the “bones” of the redevelopment efforts there that have gone on for many years, but a lack of programming and activity has frequently found the area to be lacking in year-round activities.

The RFI went out late last week to the public and seeks to focus on key areas in the Navy Yard to improve with public art and year-round programming – enlivening the area a bit.

“We’re really exploring the possibilities that exist for this in the Navy Yard,” said Nick Martin of the BRA.

The plan builds upon an earlier effort to map out actions to bring the waterfront alive in the Navy Yard, filling up vacant spaces and other underutilized spaces.

The RFI calls for attention to the water’s edges of the Charlestown Navy Yard specifically Dry Dock #2, the foot of Dry Dock #2, Dry Dock #2 Pump House, Dry Dock #5, Pier 5, the docks at Harborview Point, the Harborwalk, and adjacent watersheets. The purpose of this RFI is to identify potential qualified parties acceptable to the BRA, whose uses are consistent with the Waterfront Activation Network Plan and the Public Waterfront Act (Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 91) and complementary to the other destinations in the Charlestown Navy Yard, such as the USS Constitution, the USS Cassin Young, Courageous Sailing, and the Constitution Museum.

“The BRA is particularly interested in uses and programming that generate year-round interest and visitors,” read the RFI. “Additionally, the BRA is open to and interested in partnerships that will use or attract uses to many of the vacant ground-floor facilities along the Harborwalk of the Charlestown Navy Yard. Finally, the BRA prefers uses that educate the public about and enhance the resilience of the area to the impacts of climate change.”

Some of the suggested uses in the RFI included the following:

  • An outdoor maritime interactive park at the foot of Dry Dock #2 and the Boston Marine Society;
  • Protected water demonstration and learning center for public waterborne activities such as kayaking, sailing, and canoeing at Dry Dock #2;
  • Improvements to the Flagship Wharf water transportation waiting area, Pier 4, and Flagship Wharf public plaza such as passenger or visitor amenities, lighting, signage, etc.;
  • Tactical urbanist interventions at Pier 5;
  • An outdoor interactive maritime park at the Parris Landing Harborwalk;
  • Public art at the Shipways;
  • Programming of the Harborview Point on Parcel 4 and use of the docks; and
  • Docking for permanent and visiting vessels at Dry Dock #5, including marine-science-

themed ships.

One piece of this puzzle include the three-mile section of the Harborwalk within the Navy Yard. The BRA has indicated in the RFI that it is critical to connect this piece of the Harborwalk to the rest of Boston – suggesting that the history of the Harbor Clean Up be displayed here.

Other uses that would also qualify include:

  • Dining facilities;
  • Art galleries or other establishments dedicated to public presentation of the fine arts;
  • Educational, historical, or other cultural institutions open to the public;
  • Interior spaces dedicated to the programming of community meetings, informational displays, special recreational events, or other public activities;
  • Sports or physical fitness facilities open to the public;
  • Open spaces, pedestrian walkways, or outdoor recreation facilities open to the public;
  • Retail sales or service facilities;
  • Marina berths for transient use; and
  • Public/farmer’s markets.

Martin said the BRA has done similar things in Boston on the Congress Street Bridge – connecting downtown Boston with the Ft. Point Channel using an art display that allows visitors to make music by playing large tubes connected to the Bridge. Other grants awarded there have included floating public art pieces such as a set of pyramids that graced the waters of the Ft. Point Channel for many years.

A similar thing could possibly happen in the Navy Yard too, he said, but at this point all options are on the table.

A second initiative is a Request for Proposals (RFP) put out last week at the same time for engineering services to improve the existing facilities.

Martin said they would be looking for a consultant to review the Yard.

“We’ll look for someone to establish a comprehensive analysis of existing conditions in the Navy Yard with a goal of maintaining and enhancing the area,” he said. “It’s looking for a consultant to provide a variety of capital improvement services.”

He said they would be looking at improving the infrastructure in terms of Marine infrastructure, landscape architecture, existing parks and enhancing other public spaces.

Another hot topic at the meeting included the move of the water transportation shuttle from Pier 3 to Pier 4, which Martin said would be completed by the end of July.

“We’re anticipating the relocation to be completed by the end of July and when the weather gets colder, there will be a heated shelter put in place for people to are waiting for the boat,” he said.

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