Charlesgate Park Revitalization Project
Boston’s Regional Connector
Charlesgate Park, located at the intersection of Boston’s Back Bay, Fenway and Kenmore neighborhoods, was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted as a critical link to connect the Emerald Necklace, Charles River Esplanade and the Commonwealth Avenue Mall.
Decades of prioritizing road construction over parkland have compromised this once-idyllic space, covering it with a highway overpass, dividing it with new roads and on-ramps and turning its central waterway, the Muddy River, into an armored and polluted environment. Stripped of its amenities and underutilized, what was originally a neighborhood park and a local destination now functions primarily as a pass-through space for pedestrians and vehicles.
Restoring the Start of Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace
In 2017, Emerald Necklace Conservancy President Karen Mauney-Brodek assisted in the founding of a community group, Charlesgate Alliance, and planned and implemented a public process in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to revitalize this 13-acre green space—the underutilized “clasp” of the Emerald Necklace. Together, the Conservancy, the Alliance, DCR and internationally-renowned architecture firm Landing Studio developed a conceptual revitalization plan for Charlesgate Park, supported by numerous public meetings, site walks and buy-in from public partners and the community.
In 2019, completion of a conceptual design by Landing Studio was followed by major investments of $250,000 from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and $400,000 in funds from the Boston Community Preservation Act. These investments allow for the development of a final, shovel-ready design for Charlesgate Park as soon as Winter/Spring 2022. Proposed improvements and amenities for this finalized design include one of Boston’s largest dog parks, a universally inclusive children’s play area and the creation of rain gardens and wetland areas to treat and clean the Muddy River.
The site, which is bounded by the Turnpike to the south, the Charles River to the north and Charlesgate East and West, is now a major focus of MassDOT improvements (Massachusetts Department of Transportation). In 2021, MassDOT leadership indicated that the bridge over the MassPike/I-90 will be replaced on an expedited timeline. The Charlesgate Alliance (with Conservancy support) further commissioned Landing Studio to develop a proposal to renovate the bridge that provides a much-improved connection between the Back Bay Fens and the Charlesgate area, eliminating one of the key breaks in the Necklace. This concept plan has been shared with key elected officials and MassDOT. A public meeting to review these ideas was held on September 21, 2021.
(YouTube link here)
Our proposed design for Charlesgate will rebuild and expand a people-friendly and regional pathway network, restoring connections between the Emerald Necklace, Charles River Esplanade and Commonwealth Mall for the first time in more than five decades. When complete, this restored system will allow direct walking and cycling connections between locations as distant as Boston’s North Station, Charlestown, Dorchester, Cambridge and Watertown.
At 200, Frederick Law Olmsted continues to shape public space – The Boston Globe, June 11, 2022
Set the underground rivers free – The Boston Globe, January 21, 2022
Emerald Necklace Conservancy, Charlesgate Alliance advocate for parks, greenspaces to bridge communities – The Huntington News, January 28, 2022
Gaining a sparkling clarity from ‘daylighting’ the Muddy River – The Boston Globe, February 6, 2022
DCR Issues One More Call for Feedback on Arborway Redesign – StreetsBlogMASS, February 14, 2022
‘It’s a really daunting situation’ — Meet the advocacy groups working to make Boston more walkable – The Scope Boston, March 10, 2022
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Learn More About Charlesgate Park
Discover the history of Charlesgate and our public process from our partners at the Charlesgate Alliance.
Learn more about the Charlesgate Park Revitalization Project from our 2020 Annual Meeting, featuring presentations from President Karen Mauney-Brodek, Dan and Marie Adams of Landing Studio and Garrett Dash Nelson of the Leventhal Map Center..
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