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Keep Lawn on D alive — and put it on a sustainable path

Yvette Philip of Mattapan and Darryl Robinson of Dorchester danced during “Salsa in the Park” at Lawn on D last year.Dina Rudick/Globe staff/file 2014

WHEN THE Massachusetts Convention Center Authority first proposed an 18-month pop-up park on D Street in South Boston, the agency didn’t need a long-term plan to keep the space open afterward. But now it does.

Eventually dubbed the Lawn on D, the 2.7-acre park was supposed to bring some life to the area just east of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center until the authority could get a major expansion project underway. But two big things have happened: The Baker administration put the convention center expansion on hold. And the Lawn on D, with its extensive roster of events and public art installations, has proved to be an enormously popular attraction. Bostonians’ appetite for glowing O-shaped swings and giant inflatable bunnies, and for a pleasant outdoor bar, is significantly larger than anyone might have expected.


The Globe reported last week that convention center officials still haven’t decided what to do about the Lawn on D after the current season ends in October. But the answer is obvious: They should keep the Lawn on D going.

This isn’t a small task, though. The park’s initial champion, convention center executive director James Rooney, has moved on to a new gig as president of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.

Meanwhile, the costs of operating a park with so much programming are significant. The convention center has budgeted $2.2 million for the Lawn on D in the current year, and concessions and events at the park have generated about $300,000 in revenue. There’s likely to be a combination of daily rentals, event sponsorships, and concession revenues that makes the Lawn self-sufficient — or at least reduces the subsidy from the convention center to a manageable level. The goal should be to put the park on a path toward sustainability within a few years’ time.


The Lawn on D serves some larger civic purposes. It helps the convention center, an enormous structure, blend in more easily with the residential blocks and hotels developing alongside it. It draws people to the street level in an rapidly developing area that hasn’t fully jelled as a neighborhood.

And by showing off Boston’s witty, innovative side — rather than the stately elegance that prevails in many of the other parks in the city — the Lawn on D also serves as a welcome mat for the educated, highly mobile recent graduates whom the region’s knowledge industries need to attract and retain. The website Thrillist included the park on its list of “18 great Boston dates under $20.” Clickbait, perhaps, but also a reminder that civic institutions, such as the convention center, are doing the whole region a favor when they give young adults more reasons to make their lives here.

The Lawn on D is fun. It’s a valuable addition to the city. It deserves to stick around.


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