Casey group talks new park and parking

FOREST HILLS—The Casey Arborway Design Advisory Group (DAG) brainstormed ideas for an acre of land to be added to the Southwest Corridor Park (SWCP) and other livability concerns at their May 16 meeting.

Parking near the West Roxbury Courthouse was also brought up at the DAG meeting by community members as a concern. The current plan calls for slashing the amount of parking there.

In a brainstorming session, DAG members suggested possibly adding a dog park, a skate park, an arbor or a farmer’s market in the new Southwest Corridor space.

Parking near the courthouse at 445 Arborway is still a point of contention. Today, there are an estimated 76 to 89 on-street parking spaces near the courthouse. There is no exact number as some of the spaces are irregularly sized. There are another 104 parking spaces under the existing Casey Overpass across the street from the courthouse in a lot controlled by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).

Under the current plan, MassDOT plans to replace 51 to 55 street parking spaces in the vicinity of the courthouse.

“This [plan] is still in the conceptual phase, though, so I want to make clear that those figures are not yet set in stone,” MassDOT spokesperson Michael Verseckes said.

Courthouse staff did not respond to Gazette questions. The courthouse had a representative on an earlier version of the Casey project review committee, but does not have a representative on the current DAG.

Parking is a planned topic of discussion for the next DAG meeting, scheduled for June 18.

DAG members also expressed concern over enforcement of taxi queue length and other drop-off details around the Forest Hills MBTA station, as they could seriously impact traffic flow through the area. The area is controlled by multiple agencies, including the MBTA, the DCR and the City’s Parks and Recreation Department.

The design team said that enforcement of laws and rules would fall to controlling agencies and not exclusively to the Department of Transportation (MassDOT), the agency in charge of the Casey replacement project.

Answers to questions asked at the last DAG meeting were shared, including information about coordinating bus drop-offs with Boston Public School and private buses that use the area, and the location of MBTA bus stops and adjacent pedestrian crossings.

The Casey project will affect various areas with historic status that will require special approvals. While the overpass itself has not been designated as a historic structure, other properties within or adjacent to the project are listed in the State and National Registers of Historic Places, Verseckes said.

Those include the Arborway itself, which is a historic state parkway and part of the Emerald Necklace system of parks. It also includes or affects Morton Street, Shea Circle, Franklin Park, Forest Hills Cemetery and the Arnold Arboretum.

“Federal and state preservation laws do not mandate that a listed property cannot be touched, only that a reasonable effort must be made to seek alternatives that would avoid, minimize or mitigate any adverse effects that a project might have on a listed property’s historic character,” Verseckes said.

The only major change planned for any of these properties is the razing of Shea Circle and replacing it with a standard four-way intersection to be called Shea Square.

Shea Circle is under Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) protection. MHC did not return the Gazette’s call by press time.

The Casey Arborway, an at-grade surface street network, will replace the crumbling Casey Overpass. The Casey Overpass is the State Route 203 bridge over Washington Street at the Forest Hills T Station. The process has been fraught with controversy since it was first announced in late 2010.

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