City unveils plan for major makeover of Boston Common

BOSTON (AP) — Boston Common, America’s oldest public park, is getting a multimillion-dollar makeover that includes an expanded visitors’ center, more restrooms, additional sports facilities, and even a sit-down restaurant at the famed Frog Pond, city officials announced Wednesday.

The goal is to make the 50-acre (20-hectare) swath of green space in the heart of the city more welcoming, convenient, fun and accessible for both city residents and tourists.

“Boston Common’s gorgeous tree-lined paths and open spaces have hosted so many moments marked in history, from shaping our collective conscience to celebrating our communities,” Mayor Michelle Wu said in a statement. “We’re excited to be sharing a plan that honors the Common’s history, reflects the community’s vision, and creates a space that will be more accessible, more resilient, and more inclusive for generations to come.”

The Common was founded in 1634 and draws millions of people per year. It has been used as a place for public executions, as a pasture, and a military training field, according to the nonprofit group Friends of the Public Garden, which helped develop the Boston Common Master Plan.

More recently it has hosted civil rights marches, Vietnam War protests and a 1979 Catholic Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II attended by an estimated 400,000 people during a soaking rainstorm. It was also the site of huge protests in 2020 against police brutality.

The multiyear plan also includes tripling the size of a children’s playground, a dog park, and adding wheelchair ramps to the Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment Memorial, and the Parkman Bandstand.

“With this Boston Common Master Plan, America’s first public park will have a unified vision for evolving and adapting to meet the needs of Boston’s residents and visitors to our city as well as of the park itself,” said Liz Vizza, president of the Friends of the Public Garden.

The planned changes are the result of years of public input and will be funded in part by $28 million from the 2019 sale of a city parking garage. The city has opened a 45-day public comment period for residents to share their priorities for the makeover plan.

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