JP Observer: The secret of a beautiful parking lot

It took me a while to realize why going to Stop & Shop in Jackson Square put me in a good mood almost every Saturday. Finally, it occurred to me that it’s good to get groceries, but it’s the parking lot the supermarket shares with Martha Eliot Health Center that makes the experience remarkably pleasant.

Surrounding the lot and in several large “islands” that divide rows of cars are seas of colorful plantings and large pots that hold plants that change throughout the year. At the entrance, in front of a decorative wall, rose bushes bloom. The beds with the greenery are immaculate, with nary a weed or piece of paper to tarnish the beauty of the flowers and plants.

To add to the attractive appearance, the parking lot itself is always clean. Sometimes, for fun, I try to spot a piece of trash in it. I seldom find anything.

How come a lot in dense urban neighborhood looks so nice all the time? I couldn’t help but wonder, especially given frequent complaints about litter in the Centre/South Street business district down the street.

Mordechai Levin has owned the property for 17 years this summer, as well as JP Plaza next door for 22. In an interview, Levin credited staff member and JP resident Terry Bruce, his local landscape crew and his maintenance staff for the appearance.

Bruce chooses the plantings and the design. The landscapers, led by Bromley-Heath resident Edwin Roach for the past 10 years, plant, weed and water the plants. And Levin employs a person to empty the trash and sweep with a broom and dustpan eight hours a day, for two hours at a time, from early morning until night at the plaza and the center.

“I want only black pavement,” summer and winter, Levin said, referring to snow plowing as well.

“That’s what good property owners do,” Levin said when asked why he does it, adding that his other properties are cleaned often, too. “This is a heavy activity place with lots of foot traffic, and we want to make it an enjoyable place to shop,” he said.

In an interview, Bruce, who Levin said “has a green thumb,” said she imagines designs and selects plants from area nurseries based on what is tolerant of the sun and available in quantity.

Plantings are changed at least once a season, with evergreens in place for winter. Right now yellow daylilies and pansies color the area. In spring, purple salvia stood out among the blossoms.

Landscape chief Roach, 82, said in an interview he started working security at the complex and then “got into landscaping for Mordy.” Now the native of Panama supervises four to five local workers about 32 hours a week. It takes that long to do weeding, watering and putting down mulch. Working with Bruce, he said, planting requires extra time and care, because different plants have different requirements.

So, the mystery of the lovely parking lot has been solved. A caring property owner and a lot of hard-working people make it that way.

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