Arboretum plan approved

January 25, 2008
By

JOHN RUCH

Arnold Arboretum’s master plan—including a new Research and Administration Building—got its final approval from the city Zoning Commission this month.

The arboretum is expected to begin construction this year on the 45,000-square-foot, $38 million building on its Weld Hill parcel on the Jamaica Plain-Roslindale border.

The building is the only new project in the official Institutional Master Plan (IMP) filed with the city, which covers all expected expansion for the next decade.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority approved the plan last summer, but it was delayed by controversy about a related agreement largely brokered by nearby Roslindale residents. That agreement is particularly focused on making sure that much of the site remains undeveloped essentially forever.

The agreement was concluded and is now in effect, though it is unclear if everyone agreed to it. Wayne Beitler, a Roslindale resident and key figure in the discussion, could not immediately be reached for comment.

However, it appears the final version of the agreement addresses most local concerns, including a parking plan and the preservation of 6.4 acres of the Weld Hill site as public parkland through the term of the arboretum’s lease with the City of Boston. The lease expires on Dec. 29, 2882—roughly 875 years from now.

Arnold Arboretum is a largely independent program of Harvard University. Harvard leases the arboretum land from the city as a combined research facility, plant collection and public park. Arboretum officials say the new building is required to assist its world-famous research.

Early in the IMP public process, JP residents opposed other arboretum proposals for new facilities around the main 125 Arborway entrance. Among the results was the Lewis-Dawson farmhouse—originally targeted for demolition to make way for an equipment barn—being named an official Boston historic landmark.

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