Please join us to celebrate the Woolson Street Garden GRAND OPENING


Woolson St Grand Opening


A dirt pile never looked so good.

woolson progress_6-27-14


Construction is underway at 44 Woolson Street!  The City of Boston Department of Neighborhood Development has officially transferred ownership to the Boston Natural Areas Network.  Though it doesn’t look very green now, gardeners will  plant this summer.


For those who have been following this design process, you’ll recognize ideas introduced at the Fit City design charrette at last November’s ABX conference have made their way through to the final design….


Growing Community at Woolson Street Lot


A post written by our friends at the Salem Public Space Project.  Thanks for sharing!


w02 Collective social consciousness of waste, sustainable resources, economics, and pollution have influenced stakeholders to take a broader view of many design professions, especially architecture, which uses the greatest amount of resources of human enterprises. Indeed,  LEED (the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) helps establish standards of responsible resource making and gathering at the onset of design, while the temporal scope of architecture has also expanded beyond the finished building; design professionals need to take responsibility for the future maintenance and, even, potential disposal of the structure. Maintenance of a private residence requires the ultimate initiative of the owner; for public projects, the community is tasked with ongoing stewardship. Uncared for parks demonstrate that municipal trash pick-up isn’t enough. So, in addition to the materials, and the foresight, we need to also design for engagement; community building is a social and spatial problem, and creative design can aid the rigorous community organization of so many neighborhood leaders, activists, and planners.

w03SPSP was happy to be part of such an effort of Saturday, May 3rd in Mattapan in collaboration with the Community Design Resource Center (CDRC),  Boston Natural Areas Network (BNAN), the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition, and neighbors.  We were also delighted to re-use four bright orange frames initially created for another project.


In tandem with the “Boston Shines” city-wide clean-up effort, we erected creative signage on the lot to communicate the message that the planned community garden needs more gardeners. Design for social engagement is a compelling design challenge; the project is often a temporary installation, with no budget, infused with contextual issues and histories, inherently political, that seeks to reach a diverse number of people in circumstances that often hinder civic participation. On the Woolson Street lot, while volunteers cleaned up trash and weeded around daffodils, we posted signs that signal the beginning of the transformation of a lot that has a history of tragedy, and a desired future of community, safety, commemoration, and beautiful gardens!


If you would like to support the community gardens proposed at the Woolson Street Lot – support the project at Make Architecture Happen! 

Our 200 Seeds Campaign — for $25, will you help grow peace?

We’ve entered crowd sourcing…

What we’ve heard from the Woolson Street neighborhood residents is a strong desire for a community garden AND.  AND a place to gather.  AND a place for kids to play.  AND a place to foster a new neighborhood identity.  AND a place to grow peace.

This vacant lot at 44 Woolson has been the site of great tragedy, part of the scene of a quadruple homicide in 2010.  We’re working with residents to transform this site to a positive story, encouraging new perceptions and healthy activities in this neighborhood.

The City of Boston Department of Neighborhood Development is generously funding essential garden infrastructure:  water service, soil remediation, garden plots.  But their funds are restricted to that.

Enter the MassArt graduate Community Build Studio which , for the price of materials, will work with community members to design and construct extraordinary garden structures:  trellises, sun shelters, tables, seats, artistic fencing, signage, a gateway.  That studio will take place next summer, dependent on fundraising.

Enter Make Architecture Happen.  We’re aiming for $5,000 this month (a substantial step toward $20,000 total):

If 200 people “seed” our campaign with $25 each, we’ll be there.

Will you help us demonstrate the optimism of great design?

Will you help us grow peace?



Continue reading

Boston Shines

Join us on Saturday, May 3, 10am-1pm at 44 Woolson Street as we work with garden neighbors and friends to clean up the property and get it ready for construction.  It’s part of Boston Shines — an annual, city-wide clean up event.  What a great way to welcome Spring as well as the new garden!

The Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition and the Boston Natural Areas Network will be on hand to sign up folks who want to join the new community garden.

We will be there installing a handful of big orange frames to look something like this…  A means to draw neighborhood attention to and interest in this new garden.

Come grow with us!

design concept summary_Page_10



Woolson Street Garden Plans Underway

Over the past ten weeks, we’ve worked with residents, garden advocates, Mattapan activists, and City officials to generate and refine ideas for the layout of the new Woolson Street community garden.  Several priorities have been clear from the beginning:  the layout should be unique, creating spaces for neighbors to gather — to talk, to play, to share, to eat, to listen, to celebrate, to remember — as well as provide the infrastructure to grow vegetables.

Everyone contributed ideas during the initial layout brainstorm session, resulting in about twenty different schemes:

2014-03-13 13.23.32 - Copy

Which were then synthesized into three options:

woolson sketch A - Copy woolson sketch B - Copy woolson sketch C

Scheme “A” — the curved path, or the ‘fiddlehead’ scheme, was the runaway favorite.  Several variations on that scheme prompted discussion about details like path materials and the location of the raised beds and trees:

a2 - Copy a1 - Copy


Ray Dunetz Landscape Architects has taken these community preferences to the construction documents.  Now with technical considerations like the exact slope of the path and site drainage incorporated to the precise dimensions provided by the City’s engineering site survey (completed after the snow stopped falling in April), the revised scheme looks like this:

garden sketch_4-25-2014 - Copy

Construction documents are nearly complete.  The project will go out to bid in May, with construction to begin in a few weeks.  Gardeners, get ready!  Plots will open in June.

What Will Your Garden Grow?

The CDRC continues our FIT CITY work as we help our neighbors on Woolson  Street in Mattapan plan a new community garden.  At a public meeting in January, the neighborhood voiced strong support for a community garden at the city-owned vacant lot at 44 Woolson.  In February, the Department of Neighborhood Development issued an RFP for a garden on that site.  In March, the Boston Natural Areas Network submitted a proposal in collaboration with Woolson Street neighbors and the CDRC.  While we await official word from the City, we’re continuing to work with the neighbors in planning the garden.  If all goes well, our team will be awarded the project, and gardeners will plant their first seeds in June.



woolson street existing2


to This:



What will your garden grow?



Dear Mayor Walsh: Embrace Healthy Community Design

In the 100 days counting down to a new Mayor of Boston, the Menino administration is offering ideas and insight to help Mayor-elect Walsh — and all of us — make a smooth transition.

On December 10, the Next Boston blog encouraged the new mayor to embrace Healthy Community Design.

Excerpts from that post:

Embracing Health in All Policies

The health of the City of Boston is about so much more than just medical care. While our city has world-class medical resources, where we live, learn, work and play also have a significant impact on shaping  our health and well-being. Community design and public policies affect our access to physical activity, nutritious food, healthy housing, good jobs, clean air, and safe public places.

The “Health in All Policies” approach has two basic ideas.  First, incorporate health considerations into decision-making across all the agencies and organizations that influence community design, including transportation and development. Second, engage residents, who best understand the community context, into these processes. City departments and private developers are already leading the way in this effort. Ongoing projects include:

This year, in partnership with the Boston Society of Architects, we launched the Fit City Boston initiative which brings together planners, architects, developers, public officials, academics and residents to explore how physical activity can be supported by the design of our streets and buildings. At the Fit City Summit in May, 100 participants brainstormed ideas. At a November workshop, designers, public health officials and residents applied these concepts to community spaces in Mattapan, which will be used to inform upcoming planning processes.

Mayor Menino, thanks for the shout out to Fit City!

Click on the graphic below to read the full post.

healthy communities design image

What might “Fit City Boston” be? The CDRC Design Charrette at ABX Advances that Conversation

fit city charrette_11-21-2013_01At the Fit City Design Charrette at ABX on November 21, over 50 design professionals, public health advocates, and neighborhood residents brainstormed ideas for how to transform a handful of underutilized Mattapan sites into places that support active and healthy living.  A number of concepts emerged, incorporating elements of community gardens and urban farming, as well as play and exercise spaces.  Special attention was paid to connecting sites to each other to create a neighborhood network, and to connecting these sites to other existing and planned neighborhood amenities, like the Neponset River and the Fairmont Greenway.

All sites studied are real places that the City of Boston and others are hoping to transform into community spaces, depending on input from the neighborhood.

Ideas generated at the Charrette will be taken to neighborhood meetings for further discussion, and will be used to inform the ongoing planning processes.

A special THANK YOU to Woolson Street area residents, to Pastor Zephir and the Greater Boston Nazarene Compassionate Center, and to professionals from the Boston Public Health Commission, the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition, the City of Boston Department of Neighborhood Development, the Boston Transportation Department, the Boston Natural Areas Network, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Trust for Public Land, ReVision Urban Farm, the Fairmont Greenway Initiative, Enterprise Community Partners, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and the Salem Public Space Project for participating in the Fit City Charrette conversation!

Mayor Menino Launched FIT CITY BOSTON

In anticipation of our FIT CITY BOSTON Design Charrette at ABX, the CDRC is pleased to share this May 2013 press release from the Boston Public Health Commission:


FIT CITY BOSTON Initiative to Make City’s Built Environment Healthier

Kickoff Summit at BSA Space Convenes 150 Local and National Experts

Mayor Thomas M. Menino today launched Fit City Boston, an initiative to examine how Boston’s urban environment impacts resident health, and to set a plan for transforming Boston into the healthiest city in America. The initiative will examine how community design, social policies, and resource distribution impact daily choices and physical health.

More than 150 local and national planners, architects, developers, public officials, academics, and residents discussed the great strides that Boston has made in promoting health and health equity, and participants worked throughout the day to chart the next steps for building on this progress.

“Some factors that affect health are personal decisions, but others are out of an individual’s control – like whether there are spaces to walk and play outside,” Mayor Menino said. “We already have many of the world’s leading health institutions and leaders in design, planning and development here in Boston, as well as a revitalized harbor and world-class parks system. Fit City Boston will bring all these resources together to help ensure our city’s built environment allows all Bostonians to achieve their optimal health.”

More than half adult Bostonians are obese or overweight, which can lead to preventable chronic health conditions like obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and asthma. Black, Latino, and other communities of color, as well as vulnerable populations, are disproportionately affected by these diseases. For example, the hospitalization rate for asthma among Black children under age 5 is four times the rate of White children. These health problems cannot be solved by public health or health care alone. Solutions are embedded in community design, social policies, and resource distribution that impact the choices residents have and make every day.

“Fit City Boston recognizes that how communities are designed and developed directly affects which residents have easy access to physical activity, nutritious food, healthy housing, and clean air,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, a member of the initiative steering committee. “While we work to improve individual and community health, it is increasingly important that we focus on the physical places where we live, work, and play, and their effect on health, as well. Fit City Boston gives us the opportunity to get new perspectives and tap into new resources for our work.”

The Fit City Boston initiative will:

  • Build on the best examples of work already underway to improve Boston’s built environment to improve health.
  • Promote the exchange of ideas for building healthier, more sustainable and more equitable urban environments in Boston with positive economic development and business results.
  • Develop plans to take best practices to scale, institutionalize proven ideas, and set a big picture vision for future work.

Partners in the initiative include the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Boston Transportation Department, the Boston Society of Landscape Architects, the Boston Society of Architects, Enterprise Community Partners, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. The summit was sponsored by Boston Properties and The Boston Foundation.

“Boston is truly fortunate to be the “living lab” for many researchers from our great academic institutions,” said Dr. John D. Spengler, professor and director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard School of Public Health and today’s keynote speaker. “Working with city schools to reduce obesity, with the housing authorities on asthma, pest control and smoking cessation, planning agencies on climate adaptation and citizens of South Boston and Chinatown concerned with traffic impacts on their health, faculty and students are helping to shape Boston’s future.”

“As the ultimate goal of sustainable design is the health, happiness, and safety of people, social sustainability and environmental justice must fit within the Boston Society of Architects’ advocacy agenda. This summit presents a great opportunity for the BSA and our partners to contribute to one of Mayor Menino’s lifetime legacy projects: making Boston a healthier place to live,” said Mike Davis, president of the Boston Society of Architects. “As we convene with multidisciplinary experts from the Boston Public Health Commission, the Harvard School of Public Health, Partners HealthCare, Enterprise Community Partners, and many other private and public organizations, we hope this will be the beginning of a transformational exchange of ideas.”

The initiative is modeled after Fit City New York, which is co-hosted by the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.