Charlesgate Park Revitalization Project

Charlesgate (blue) connects Boston’s major park systems (green). Click to expand.

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.

Overpasses, armored shorelines and difficult pedestrian and cycling conditions make Charlesgate difficult to navigate and enjoy.

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.

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Support A Revitalized Charlesgate Park

Our vision for Charlesgate Park needs your help to become a reality. Support our project with a donation today!

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..

A project of:

Recent Progress

  • In June, 15 new trees were planted in Charlesgate Park, its first new plantings in many years. This work was stewarded by Charlesgate Alliance in conjunction with Landing Studio.
  • On Friday, May 20, the Commonwealth’s Department of Transportation (MassDOT) announced its proposed FY2023-27 Capital Plan and included $156M for the two key connection projects to the North and South of Charlesgate Park: the eastbound Storrow Drive bridge and the bridge over the Mass Pike, respectively.

    MassDOT included in its budgets and scope the reconnection of the Emerald Necklace and the Charles River Esplanade for bicyclists and pedestrians for the first time in over 60 years; interchanges that improve access and safety for pedestrians; and immense environmental and water quality benefits like the daylighting of the Muddy River at its terminal 250 feet.

  • In November and December, the project received two leadership gifts as Liberty Mutual Foundation and an anonymous donor each committed a significant sum toward the revitalization of Charlesgate Park, and to the universally accessible playground in particular.
  • In November, the Charlesgate Revitalization Project was recognized with a Bronze Medal for North America by the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction for this transformational project. More information can be found here.
  • MassDOT has incorporated daylighting into their current plan for the project – thank you for your advocacy!
  • Senator Markey and Senator Warren’s offices submitted a Congressionally Directed Funding Request for the “heart of the park.”  If approved, this federal earmark will help fund the creation of an ADA accessible playground and dog park.
  • A walk with elected representatives on the Federal, State and Local level was organized by Senator Will Brownsberger and facilitated by Karen Mauney-Brodek, members of the Charlesagate Alliance and Landing Studio to show the opportunities presented by the project (which align with coming federal and state funds focused on climate resilient infrastructure investments).
  • 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.
  • In January, DCR was made aware of a sink hole in Charlesgate Park. After coordinating with the Conservancy and Charlesate Alliance, the sink hole was repaired and restored.
  • The Emerald Necklace Conservancy and Charlesgate Alliance submitted a letter to Governor Baker advocating for the Charlesgate area, which was co-signed by 33 community organizations.
  • Former Mayor Walsh wrote to Governor Baker in support of the Charlesgate Revitalization Project.
  • Boston City Councilor Kenzie Bok wrote to Governor Baker in support of the Charlesgate Revitalization Project and further funding in the transportation budget.
  • DCR approved the Conservancy’s and Charlesgate Alliance’s application for matching funds to remove two large, non-structural stone barrier walls that impede upon the park.
  • The project was awarded the Fenway Park Demonstration Project Community Benefits Grant for new trees in Charlesgate Park.

Project Gallery

Existing Conditions at Charlesgate. (Map: Landing Studio.)

Proposed future Conditions at Charlesgate. Plans not final and subject to change. (Map: Landing Studio.)

Proposed dog park located at the southern edge of Charlesgate. (Visualization: Landing Studio.)

Proposed new pedestrian and bicycle connections at the northern edge of Charlesgate. (Visualization: Landing Studio.)

Environmental restoration of the Muddy River shoreline is proposed as part of the revitalization. (Visualization: Landing Studio.)

New pedestrian connections throughout Charlesgate, including a bridge to Newbury Street, are proposed as part of the plan. (Visualization: Landing Studio.)

The Muddy River is fully exposed and the riverbank restored after the removal of the offramp. (Visualization: Landing Studio.)

A view of a daylit Muddy River and the recovered historic Fens Pond Bridge. (Visualization: Landing Studio.)

A new shared-use bridge where the Muddy flows into the Charles River. (Visualization: Landing Studio.)

Every Sunday through 9/18, park rangers from Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site will be on-site at the Shattuck Visitor Center!

Stop by the Center at 125 The Fenway to chat with expert rangers and learn about Olmsted's "most important work," the Emerald Necklace.