Plans are underway to transform a rotting, nearly four-acre pier near Logan Airport in East Boston into an urban waterfront park.
The effort is being led by the Trustees of Reservations, which said it has already raised millions of dollars to fund the concept. The project, near Marginal Street, has garnered a lot of interest, but also raises many questions.
Here’s what we know so far.
What is the Trustees of Reservations?
The Trustees of Reservations is a Boston-based nonprofit organization focused on preservation and conservation. Established in 1891, the organization is the nation’s oldest nonprofit of its kind.
The group oversees more than 100 sites that span nearly 27,000 acres of land in Massachusetts, according to its website. (For reference, the Boston Common is 50 acres.)
The nonprofit estimates that 2 million people visit its properties annually. Most of the destinations are located in suburbs, such as the Pierce Reservation in Milton or the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln.
What does the Trustees of Reservations have planned for East Boston?
The nonprofit has been working on a project, dubbed “Piers Park 3,″ to replace a decrepit pier near Logan Airport, turning it into an urban park that overlooks Boston’s skyline. All of the group’s waterfront efforts are part of the “One Waterfront” initiative, which aims to increase access to open space while protecting the city from flooding and rising sea levels.
Here’s a rendering of the Piers Park 3 concept:
The Trustees received “official site developer designation” from the Massachusetts Port Authority for the project in July. Massport built Piers Park 1 roughly 25 years ago, and it is working on designing an expansion, dubbed Piers Park 2. The entire complex, owned by the port authority, spans some 15 acres.
The Trustees posted a video trailer and launched a webpage for the waterfront project Monday. A longer version will be released Dec. 3, according to a spokesperson for the nonprofit.
We are excited to announce official site designation for Piers Park III in #EastBoston (https://t.co/DuW62jC2be) & will be working with the community & @MVVA_INC to transform this space into a welcoming waterfront destination: https://t.co/jHCjhdiz8R #PiersPark #OneWaterfront pic.twitter.com/pucgEeLl9c— The Trustees (@thetrustees) November 23, 2020
What will this urban waterfront park look like?
That’s a good question. The answer: It’s not clear yet.
The Trustees began meeting with community organizations this fall to gather input on what they want to see from the project. So far, early ideas under discussion include a kayak launch and manmade tidal pools.
Gove Street Citizens Association secretary Nat Taylor said he thinks the plan for a waterfront park is “spectacular,” especially since the pier “looks like it is about to fall into the ocean.” The Trustees plan to attend the neighborhood group’s monthly meeting Monday night.
Taylor said he is excited that early renderings of the park feature gradual slopes into the water, as opposed to a steep sea wall.
“It has really neat ways for the tide to fill in the park, creating tide pools or a ramp you could launch boats on,” he said.
In addition to several community meetings, the Trustees of Reservations will host a virtual meeting on Jan. 12 about the project.
How real is this project?
Piers Park 3 is still largely in concept mode, but donors have already committed about $20 million to the idea, according to Jocelyn Forbush, executive vice president at the nonprofit. That’s at least half of the park’s estimated cost, which is $30 million to $40 million.
“We often hear about projects that might happen, but they are often pipe dreams,” Taylor said. “To know that this one is backed by a lot of funding to make it a reality makes it particularly exciting.”
Taylor said residents in East Boston have been interested in more access to open space amid ongoing development projects.
“We are surrounded by water, yet we don’t have that many waterfront parks,” he said. “I think this addresses a lot of concerns and desires of the neighbors.”
Where did the $20 million in early funding coming from?
Forbush said the Trustees of Reservations is not ready to name the backers yet. She said the donations primarily came from foundations, families, and individuals who are committed to building a climate-resilient park for the city.
When will the building start?
Forbush hopes construction can start in 2022 and be completed by late 2023 or early 2024.
Who will design Piers Park 3?
The Trustees is partnering with landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates to design the waterfront park. The firm worked on the The Brooklyn Bridge Park project, which transformed a “stretch of post-industrial waterfront into a thriving 85-acre civic landscape.”
“Our hope is to create a public landscape that offers all of Boston – and especially people in East Boston – a rugged spit of land with soft watery edges that jut into the harbor, allowing everyone to feel the sea,” said founder Michael Van Valkenburgh in a press release.
Jon Chesto of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.