The Egleston Square Peace Garden, located at the crossing of Washington and School streets, is a community gathering place that was transformed from a vacant, crime-ridden lot by the Ecumenical Social Action Committee (ESAC) and is supported by a number of local community organizations. It is framed by a sixty-foot mural by young Boston artists and was named the best community garden in Boston in a 2004 citywide contest.
The local community has recently shown an interest in improving the space, but, according to ESNA member Dan Newman, the landowner “is not making it easy.”
“The land is owned by Clear Channel Outdoors and they have a billboard on the property. [They do] not clean the space and it has become a destination for drug use and litter,” Newman told Gazette on July 17. “The neglected condition of the Peace Garden is upsetting.”
Despite securing funding from the Community Preservation Act (CPA), the Peace Garden cannot receive this funding without a long-term lease that would ensure site control. For this reason, ESNA is seeking a fifteen-year-lease from Clear Channel with a non-cancellation clause that would allow Clear Channel to keep the land, but would put the cleaning and upkeep burden on local organizations. ESNA even has a fully-developed landscaping design and funding plan ready to go for the space.
However, Newman reported that Clear Channel “has not been responsive or willing to broker a lease that would unlock funding to improve the space.”
Clear Channel returned a phone call from Gazette on July 23 but was not authorized to comment on the issue aside from saying that it is working with ESAC to negotiate a lease.
Independent confirmed this with ESAC’s Emily Morris on July 24, who said that Clear Channel had offered a ten-year lease with a 60-day termination clause. However, this is not sufficient to secure the funding to realize the park renovations.
“Egleston Square Main Streets, ESNA and ESAC are trying to schedule a meeting with Yano Amara from Clear Channel to discuss options.”
Newman claims that community programming could replace drug use if the space were renovated.
“We ask that Clear Channel act promptly to grant the Peace Garden the long-term site control necessary to bring about the improvements,” he said. “With the space beautified and improved, positive programming can be expanded, and the Peace Garden will once again be an inviting public park and reminder of community goodwill.”
ESNA is organizing a series of community meetings to discuss the future of the Peace Garden.