Boston – Boston’s newest waterfront open space, Mayor Thomas M. Menino Park, opened its first phase to the public on November 4, 2013. Situated outside of Spaulding Hospital’s new state-of-the-art rehabilitation facility in the Charlestown Navy Yard, it is a dramatic public resource designed as a place of recovery from health challenges, and respite from the daily rigor of urban life.
While Mayor Menino was visiting the facility in early 2013, he saw potential in the vacant waterfront land that lay next door. The Boston Redevelopment Authority enlisted the support of Weston & Sampson and Spurr, its design studio, for master planning, bid documentation and construction oversight of the parcel, all of which culminated in Boston’s first Universally Accessible Playground.
Together, Drydock 5 and Parcel 5 (the site of the park), form Charlestown’s furthest eastern reaches, also known as Yard’s End. Built on post-industrial land, much of the design inspiration drew from the parcel’s history. The Charlestown Navy Yard was home to America’s first drydock, built in 1678, and the park was once the site of Drydock 5, built during World War II to service Navy escort ships. As an historic waterfront there are several drydock structures that remain intact and form a dynamic edge between Charlestown and Boston’s Inner Harbor.
The design of the park at Parcel 5 was inspired by the physical form of these drydocks. Granite blocks that once held back seawater now form the terraced walls of the playground. The linear berms along the northeast and southwest edges of the site create a central promenade that provides protection from harsh waterfront conditions and creates optimal microclimatic conditions throughout the year. The berms that form the walls of the drydock structure are faced with wood and granite block terracing providing seating and gathering spaces, further defined by site features that mimic the “keel block” structures of the original drydock designs. Additionally, the decking provides pedestrian circulation to access elevated lawns and viewing decks oriented to capture the splendor of Boston’s working waterfront and stunning downtown skyline.
The rehabilitation and inclusivity of the park was envisioned in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. Many survivors of this tragedy found recovery and renewal within the confines of the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. The finished park is intended to honor those focused on perseverance, renewal, recovery, awakening and revival. Innumerable opportunities for active play, physical therapy and exercise for all generations are incorporated into the park.
Future phases will include the connection and continuation of Boston’s Harborwalk system, as well as a space for fairs and farmers’ markets on Pier 11. The synergy of these amenities makes this space a premier waterfront destination in Boston, attracting local and regional events including the arrival of the Tall Ships in 2016.