Loss of Pinebank would be tragic

October 6, 2006
By

I have greatly appreciated your consistent reporting on the status of Pinebank. It is indeed sad that Jamaica Plain may forever lose a treasured historic site.

This project deserves additional strong consideration before it is demolished if for no other reason than no complete public process took place in deciding the current direction. The only public meetings that have taken place were to “memorialize” the building. At these meetings, the support shown for adaptive reuse was prominent and overriding. In fact, even the professional facilitator could not get the majority of the group beyond thinking about adaptive reuse. Reuse would involve saving the detailed and beautiful exterior building shell and creating a new sustainable interior, combined with landscape renovation, all to function in service to the community.

The last meeting presented the landscape architect’s vision for the memorialized site—ideas based on very limited guidelines of how to interpret the site. While I respect some of the landscape interpretations, of the three ideas presented, two called for basically pouring concrete into the remaining building foundation (a simple cost-saving measure—fewer removal and disposal costs!). The other involved building some arches using the materials from the site, which would disallow a reconstruction and serve the depressing function of remembering what we destroyed. Boston deserves better and has plenty of private sources of funding available, if the City would trust and allow help from the community.

The Friends of Pinebank has compiled documentation showing considerable support among historians, architects, and local agencies for an adaptive reuse of Pinebank. The highly capable, committed and reenergized Friends of Pinebank, is the sole group currently interested in forming an alliance with the Parks Department, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy and the Landmarks Commission that could finally result in an adaptive reuse of the site. I suggest that citizens get behind them as they are, at the moment, the sole path to salvation for this beautiful and historic resource.

I’m confident that there is support within the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, which is aware of the new capabilities of the Friends of Pinebank group. Others have yet to be convinced because of the long history of failure of reuse efforts to gain support. There is a prevailing cynicism to overcome, just as there is prior to the undertaking of any ambitious project. But the City should find a way to assess their trust of private interest groups who offer the potential to create value beyond what the City alone can offer.

Vickie Wallin
Jamaica Plain