BY THOMAS C. PALMER JR.
From The Boston Globe
BOSTON–City officials have identified several sites–including some in prominent downtown locations–they say would be suitable for the Armenian Heritage Memorial Park that supporters have been campaigning to place on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway.
Possible sites include property near the old Filene’s building at Downtown Crossing, a large site near North Station, space in the new parks along the Charles River built as part of the Big Dig, a location in Charlestown, and others on the South Boston Waterfront.
Despite opposition from Mayor Thomas M. Menino, the Mayor’s Central Artery Completion Task Force, an advisory group, and the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy–which is assuming responsibility for the emerging corridor of parks–supporters of the Armenian Heritage Foundation’s proposal have persisted in trying to have the memorial built on the Greenway, near Christopher Columbus Park.
One location being looked at by city officials is a triangular property on Franklin Street, sometimes called "shoppers park," near the Filene’s building, which is being redeveloped.
Another is on Merrimac Street, three-quarters of an acre partly owned by the state, property that is now being used as a parking lot. The plot, at the intersection of Staniford Street, would more than accommodate the park, Boston Redevelopment Authority officials said. The city also owns a wide sidewalk on two sides of the three-sided site.
City officials who spoke about potential sites asked not to be identified because some of the sites are controlled by other parties, including the state and the Massachusetts Port Authority. The city has not confirmed the sites are available. They said they are trying to help end the standoff.
Other locations being eyed by the city include spaces on the 40 acres of new parkland on the Boston and Cambridge sides of the Charles River, Pier 3 in Charlestown, and land near the entrance to the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, on Summer Street.
Officials of the Armenian group declined to offer opinions on possible alternative sites. "We continue to focus our efforts for Armenian Heritage Park on Parcel 13," said James Kalustian, president of the Armenian Heritage Foundation, referring to a Greenway block.
About a year ago, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority designated the Armenian foundation as developer of the block near Christopher Columbus Park. Its proposal is for a memorial to the 1915 Armenian Genocide, in which an estimated 1.5 million people died.
The design, with a large labyrinth in the pavement, benches, a water jet, and a large sculpture that would change shapes annually, is by Tellalian Associates Architects & Planners LLC of Boston, and has been widely praised for its aesthetics.
The authority effectively controls development on the Greenway, which was created after the elevated Central Artery through downtown Boston was demolished and the highway put in tunnels.
But during 15 years of public meetings to develop plans for the Greenway, while the Big Dig project was underway, there was a consensus it should not be a place for memorials.
In 2000, the Legislature asked the Turnpike Authority to search for a location for an Armenian memorial in Boston. Since then, the authority has backed a Greenway site, because the Armenian foundation would fund the estimated $4 million construction cost, as well as pay for maintenance and an annual lecture series.
Features of the proposed park, which has been fully designed, include the names of the 12 former Armenian provinces and the names of prominent Armenian-Americans, its supporters have said.
Menino and other public officials worry a memorial park would set a precedent for other groups that might also seek space on the Greenway. The Greenway conservancy has called for a moratorium of at least five years on all proposals for memorials.