Boston Globe, May 2021
For over 120 years, Franklin Park has been a beloved space for Boston residents, especially for those in neighboring Roxbury, Mattapan, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, and Roslindale. Over time, however, several carve-outs, including the Shattuck Hospital, the William Devine Golf Course, and Franklin Park Zoo have reduced the amount of public park space by 200 acres, or nearly 40 percent. Today, Boston has an opportunity to restore green space to Franklin Park, the geographic heart of the city and crown jewel of Frederick Law Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace, while providing much needed supportive services and housing to some of the most vulnerable in our community.
On the northwestern side of Franklin Park, in what was once the park’s Heathfield meadow, the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital primary building awaits demolition. Many of the services on the 13-acre site will soon move to a new facility near the Boston Medical Center, and the state has proposed giving a 99-year lease at the Shattuck site to a private developer to build housing for the formerly homeless.
The restoration of Franklin Park’s historic Heathfield need not come at the cost of supportive housing, health, and social services. Over the past year, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy partnered with Northeastern University on a series of graduate studies of the nearby Arborway bus facility — an 18-acre site controlled by the MBTA. The students determined that the Arborway Yard site, with its proximity to the Forest Hills T stop, would be a superior alternative location for the transitional housing, health, and social services that the state has proposed for the Shattuck site. Equally important, the students’ designs showed that the Arborway Yard is of sufficient size to fully accommodate the social services and supportive housing called for in the Shattuck Vision Plan, the market rate and affordable housing committed to in a 20-year-old memorandum of understanding with the community, and a new electric bus facility that could hold twice the number of buses currently housed.