By Adam Swift
A reimagining of the open space around Sullivan Square will open up new recreation opportunities in the area, but some residents still want to see a more comprehensive approach to open space and growth across all of Charlestown.
The Boston Planning and Development Agency’s PLAN: Charlestown team and the city’s parks and recreation department held a virtual public meeting Tuesday night focusing on the development of three open space parcels near Sullivan Square. Officials were looking for input on how to best utilize the planned expansion and renovation of Ryan Playground, the Hood Field open space associated with the 20-acre Hood development, and the open space that will be created at Sullivan Square as part of the Rutherford Avenue project.
The focus was on the programs residents want to see at each site, and how the three nearby parcels could potentially be developed to make the best use of open space in the area.
“We have heard loud and clear that the community wants to see a collaborative and holistic approach to the properties,” said Jason Ruggerio, the community engagement manager for the BPDA.
Kelly Sherman of the BPDA noted that the open space in Charlestown falls below the average in other neighborhoods in the city. She said the extension of Ryan Playground to just under 9 acres, along with the planned 1 acre Hood green space and the 1.25 acres of open space at Sullivan Square will help close that gap.
The development of the open space will also take into account climate concerns, Sherman said.
“We want to benefit the public, but they will also serve climate resilient purposes,” Sherman said. “These parks are going to serve dual purposes.”
Brandon Kunkel of Weston Sampson Engineers gave an overview of the Ryan Playground project, which will be the first of the three to see construction.
“We will be back in front of the community in December presenting concepts for Ryan Playground and getting feedback on that,” said Kunkel.
In January, a preferred schematic design for the project will be selected, with construction slated to begin in fall of 2022, he said.
Alison Richardson of landscape architect Brown, Richardson + Rowe said the work to create open space at Sullivan Square is scheduled to take place after the Ryan Playground project.
With the reconstruction of Rutherford Avenue, Richardson said there is an opportunity to make the Sullivan Square open space to make it more in line with how it looked almost a century ago. She said there are opportunities to create areas for food, entertainment, and other recreation activities within the new park.
“It’s not very large, it’s about 1-⅓ acres, but it is large enough to try to make it a very special park,” said Richardson.
The plan for the Hood greenspace is for it to sit behind a one-story retail building and in front of a larger proposed hotel.
Abigail Chatfield of the Boston Parks Department conducted some live polling asking the nearly 60 people taking part in the meeting what they would like to see as priorities for the new park spaces. Some of the more popular responses included public events and live entertainment, farmers markets or food trucks, and dog walking.
Chatfield also asked attendees to provide one word that they think best suits each individual park. Sports was a popular answer for Ryan Playground, transportation and connection were the top answers for Sullivan Square, and gathering and community topped the list for the Hood space.
Several residents said they were excited about the opportunities for Charlestown with the new green spaces, but it was also noted that they would like to see more emphasis on overall planning for all Charlestown spaces.
Ruggerio noted that PLAN: Charlestown initiative does seek to incorporate all open spaces in Charlestown, although there was some pushback in the chat comments about the overall process thus far.
There were also several people that said the younger people in Charlestown need to be involved to determine their needs, especially when it comes to available space for youth sports.
Joanne Massaro noted that the soccer program is growing across Charlestown and that there is not enough space for soccer fields.
“There should be a look at the needs across the community for youth sports,” she said.
Cathy Reese, who is involved in Charlestown Little League, said room is needed for all youth sports.
“All of our youth sports are dying for space,” she said. “We need all of it, all of our programs are growing.”
Several questions were also raised about the ratio of open space that is created when a new development is built in Charlestown. Reese said she wanted to see a more comprehensive and less piecemeal approach to developers creating open space when they come to the community with a new project.
“It has to be usable space,” she said, adding that a small area to sit and relax did not solve the issues of the community needing new soccer or baseball fields.