Council Approves Congress Avenue Land Donation

It was a big night for increasing the amount of greenspace in Chelsea at Monday night’s City Council meeting.

The council unanimously approved the donation of land at 212 Congress Avenue that will be used for public green and park space. The listed owner of the 11,228-square-foot parcel was 22 Willow Street Fee Owner, LLC.

A number of residents and representatives from the environmental justice nonprofit GreenRoots have organized over the past year to help turn the underused lot into a future oasis from urban heat.

“We have an amazing opportunity in the city this evening where a private landowner has offered a piece of land to the community of Chelsea for open space purposes,” said GreenRoots Executive Director Roseann Bongiovanni. “This piece of property is incredibly important. It is in one of the hottest neighborhoods, and as we all know, Chelsea is an environmental justice community and we have some of the hottest neighborhoods in the entire Greater Boston area.”

Bongiovanni noted that even within the heat island of Chelsea, there are some neighborhoods that are hotter than others.

“We have been monitoring this piece of land and this block and this whole area with our partners at the Boston University School of Public Health and the City of Chelsea,” she said. “We have mapped the entire city and shown that this is one of the hottest areas.”

The creation of green space at 212 Congress is part of an integrated implementation of a “cool block” approach GreenRoots is taking that includes the planting of street trees in the neighborhood, the implementation of a white roof on the Boys and Girls Club, and the transformation of 212 Congress Ave. into a new green space.

“I think we have a really unique opportunity in the City of Chelsea to take land from a private developer and make it public property and green space that is so badly needed,” Bongiovanni said. “We all know that Chelsea has some of the lowest rates of green space and tree canopy cover in the entire state, and so this is an amazing opportunity for us to get it right.”

GreenRoots environmental justice organizer Bianca Bowman said there has already been work completed to show what a benefit a green 212 Congress Ave. could be for the community.

“Over the summer, with the Boston Society of Landscape Architects and with the help of over 30 neighborhood volunteers … we built a temporary park installation that was designed using the opinions and thoughts from many surveys and meetings with community members,” said Bowman. “This space created an incredible place for people to spend time with their neighbors and families and transform a place that has been collecting trash, debris, and heat for decades.”

Several neighbors said they were looking forward to seeing a permanent transformation of the parcel. Several of the councilors also praised GreenRoots and the residents for their activism and efforts to transform the neighborhood.

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