Wednesday, July 31, 2013

In the Back Bay Fens in front of Landmark Center...

...sometimes restoring the urban fabric means daylighting a long-buried stream

So, this item is a bit dated (going back to last summer), but the project really didn't get underway on the Riverway/Fenway until this spring: Muddy River restoration begins. We're talking here about the Muddy River as it meanders through the Riverway/Fenway stretch of the 19th century Emerald Necklace greenway system. In particular, we're focused on the part directly in front of the art deco edifice originally built as a Sears department store and later redeveloped, after Sears departed in the late 1980s, to become the highly successful mixed-use Landmark Center. A Boston Landmarks Commission's report on the building dates the paving-over that Anthony Flint references in The Risky Business of Parking Lot Creation to 1965. For those of you keeping score at home, that means that the city and commonwealth bought themselves about 20 more years of Sears at this location by giving up the Muddy River and forcing it underground. Maybe not as bad a bargain as when New York let the Penn Central Railroad tear down Penn Station (to save the railroad from bankruptcy!) in 1963 to build a tragically mediocre skyscraper and relocate MSG, only to have them, you know, declare bankruptcy within 5 years, but still hardly the way to steward part of a masterpiece of Olmstedian landscape design for the long haul. And you can credit our departing Mayor for having the sustained memory needed to bring the parking lot back into public ownership as part of the Landmark Center redevelopment process. We'll have photos once they're done and the Muddy River again sees the light of day. (Blog Post No. 2013-7)