The Master Plan for a $28 Million Renovation of Boston Common Is a Go

A skyscraper deal has given the city "an unprecedented opportunity" to fix up the park.

boston common bandstand

Photo via iStock/deebrowning

A $28 million investment in Boston Common, the nearly 400-year-old park that could really use a face-lift, took a big step forward this week.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh on Thursday launched the kick off of a master plan process to determine the best way to spend a big chunk of money the city is getting from the sale of the Winthrop Square Garage to make way for a new downtown skyscraper. The project was controversial because it will cast new shadows on the Common.

In a statement, Walsh says the pot of money “has has given us an unprecedented opportunity to make substantial improvements to our most famous park, the historic Boston Common.”

A planning process will be spearheaded by the Boston design studio Weston & Sampson, whose past projects include Menino Park in Charlestown. The firm will work alongside the Boston Parks and Recreation Department and the Friends of the Public Garden on what was described as a public/private effort to steer spending on the park from a variety of sources over the coming decades.

“In order to maximize our investment, our planning process will guide all aspects of preservation, maintenance, and public use of the park as we move into the future, ensuring the Boston Common is preserved for all to enjoy,” Walsh says.

On its website, Weston & Sampson says its landscape architects “envision a resilient Common – increasing capacity for existing and future historical tourism, recreation, and programming. Overall, we envision an atmosphere of civic access and engagement with a profound sense of place.”

So what might that look like? Spruced up walkways and improved maintenance are a good place to start, but there are other ways the city could dream a little bigger, aiming for amenities like a dog park or bike paths, or even attractions like beer gardens, which have found success on the Greenway and elsewhere. Parks officials have said they’re open to such changes in the past.

This is an exciting time for the Common. The city last year announced a handful of finalists for a memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr., all of which would be major additions to the space.