After a decade of work and planning to restore the former Flanagan and Seaton site into something that would work for the community as a whole, the Burnett Street Garden & Park opened to the public on June 30 with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Despite the eventual downpour and thunderstorm, many residents came out to the park to celebrate its opening with music by Ladybugs and JP Honk, games, and the ribbon cutting, marking the official opening of the park.
According to a press release from the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), this site “was once considered to be one of the most contaminated sites in Jamaica Plain. Significant environmental remediation was necessary to reduce the contamination within the soil at the site, which was due to past industrial use.”
Fred Vetterlein, a member of the Stonybrook Neighborhood Association (SNA) and one of the original committee members on this project, told the Gazette in an email that “the project changed from a largely commercial development and parking lot to a largely residential project with less parking and an emphasis on affordable housing and community benefits,” of which this park is one.
He said the review of the redevelopment of the Flanagan and Seaton site by the Stonybrook Neighborhood Association (SNA) lasted for five years, and then five years was spent on construction.
“The discovery of soil contamination from former manufacturing uses and eventual cleanup caused much of the delay,” he said.
“We wanted this large project to knit the community together with green space and not divide it with building walls.”
Along with Vetterlein, Jennifer Uhrhane, Bill Reyelt, and Tobias Johnson were also on the original committee for this project, he said.
According to the BPDA, the development project at 3521-3529 Washington St. consists of residential units, an ExtraSpace storage facility, and another multi-use building. ExtraSpace Storage will be responsible for maintenance of the park.
The park, which is managed by Burnett Street Garden & Park, Inc., a nonprofit formed as a subcommittee of the SNA, is one of several community benefits offered as part of the development project. The others include a community room inside the ExtraSpace Storage building, as well as a mural to be painted on the Extra Space Storage building. The mural project is currently in the selection process.
“I am happy to finally see this project come to fruition and provide a community green space for Jamaica Plain’s Burnett Street neighborhood,” BPDA Director Brian Golden said in the release. “To transform an area that had been blighted by contaminants, through development that includes both affordable housing and community space, is a win for this neighborhood and its residents.”
In a statement to the Gazette, the SNA Steering Committee, which consists of Trevyn Langsford, Paige Sparks, Roberta Hantgan, and Jonathan McCurdy, said ““The Burnett Street Garden & Park is a community space for all to enjoy! The Stonybrook Neighborhood Association (SNA) advocated for the park and garden, as well as three additional community benefits, to be funded by the developers of the former Flanagan & Seaton property. This is the first to be fully realized, the artist selection process is undergoing for the Murals, and the Community Room should be opening soon. We would like to thank the SNA Members who volunteered countless hours over the last 10 years, SSG Development and Construction, and the City of Boston and look forward to seeing the rest of the benefits (the Community Room, the Murals, and the Southwest Corridor Extension) come to fruition.”
According to the BPDA, the park has 11,600 square feet of space, and the adjoining community garden offers 2,800 square feet of space in the form of 28 raised garden beds. Four of those beds are ADA accessible.
“With all the development going on in Jamaica Plain and Boston in general, I was thankful that the SNA and BPDA had the foresight to include much needed open and green space into this development plan 10 years ago,” Beth Abelow, Jamaica Plain resident and Board Member of Burnett Street Garden and Park, Inc., said in the release. “I hope this will continue to serve as a model in new developments along Washington Street and that the BPDA and the state will look for ways to connect these green spaces to increase community access to them.”
Vetterlein added that aside from the mural, the community garden and park, and the community room, there are funds available for creating a connection between the garden and park to the Southwest Corridor Park (SWPC) at McBride Street.
Additionally, a suggestion has been made to turn the vacant land between the Orange Line and the Extra Space storage facility into a dog park, which has been highly requested by many dog owners in the neighborhood.
“There is over a quarter mile of unused land running from McBride to Forest Hills Station that could eventually be linked and perhaps the SWCP can be grown into the space,” he said.
For now, the Burnett St. park is ready to be used by the community, and the garden is just about ready to accept its first batch of gardeners.
“It was a great collaboration to celebrate this new community green space that exceeded our expectations,” said Mary Ward, who worked as part of the garden committee, and “culminated in a rejuvenating downpour, upbeat music when the band played on…and a double rainbow!”