Prado Restoration Kickoff Meeting Focuses on Priorities

By Matt Conti

The long-awaited process to restore the crumbling Paul Revere Mall, known as The Prado, began this week with a kickoff community meeting at the Old North Church hosted by the Boston Parks Department

Established in 1925 as the centerpiece of Boston’s North End, the Prado is located between Boston’s oldest church, the Old North on Salem Street, and St. Stephen’s on Hanover Street. This tree-lined park offers a shady respite to residents and the millions of people who use the Freedom Trail every year. The park features the famous Cyrus Dallin equestrian statue of Paul Revere on his Midnight Ride, a large fountain feature and bronze historical plaques that line its brick walls.

At an estimated cost of $1.4 million, work will include improvements to site furnishings, pathways, landscaping, and utilities with restoration of the fountain and monument. This week’s public meeting was the first of three so that design documents can be created later this year. Construction is expected to commence in the Spring 2018.

The Prado / Paul Revere Mall improvements are oriented toward restoration with no dramatic design changes. The notable exception will be toward increasing accessibility and upgrades in accordance with the American Disabilities Act (ADA). However, the brick and stone pavements will largely remain or be replaced with similar materials. Officials confirmed the Prado brick will not be replaced with concrete as is happening elsewhere in the neighborhood.

Trees – A lengthy debate ensued regarding the existing trees that will be largely preserved. Since 2004, there have been three prior pruning attempts spearheaded by the Old North Church. While appreciation for the shading was noted, some neighbors would like a few trees removed that are close to surrounding buildings. An arborist has already examined the trees and determined that no trees are in a dire state. However, it is likely that designers will look to improve nutrition in the soil area and ways to protect the trees from damage.

Drainage – Much of the overall project cost will be to investigate and resolve the sub-surface draining problems that cause excessive flooding and persistent puddles on the Prado. In addition to looking underground, sloping the pathways will be explored to assist drainage and conform with ADA compliance standards.

Fountain – Last renovated in the 1990’s, the existing fountain is simply a pipe with a few holes where water shoots up and into the large circular base. Restoring and possibly improving the fountain feature are possibilities. One resident said the water often gets very low and sometimes overflows the fountain base. It was also noted that the water might be unsanitary with both children and dogs active in the area.

New lighting will be explored to illuminate parts of the Prado that are very dark, especially areas that are very shaded. Public safety will be prioritized, but also to highlight certain sections, such as the historic plaques.

Planters – Some residents thought the planters should be removed while others wanted them maintained with fresh horticulture.

Trash Barrels – Oil drums are currently mixed in the park, but project managers said they could add new park-like trash containers as part of the project.

Bollards & chains – There was not much support for the deteriorating link chains which some called a safety hazard.

Vendors – Some residents expressed concern that vendors and buskers are encroaching on the center of the Prado, impeding photo opportunities and other activity.

Toilets – There are no plans for a city toilet or restroom facilities on the Prado.

Skateboarding – Preventing wear from skateboarding will be part of the design process. One resident said boarders currently make ramps into the fountain.

Over the next few months, planners will gather data regarding people flow to acertain usage among various constituencies, including tourists, residents and students attending the abutting Eliot and NEMPAC facilities.

While programming is not a part of this effort, designers will solicit input on how the park is used for concerts or other events. For example, electrical circuits could be installed in the park. One resident suggested an area for a beer garden.

The Parks Department encouraged a Friends group that would help support and maintain plantings and other park features. While there have been past iterations of “Friends of the Prado,” there is no active group today. Members of NEWRA’s Parks and Open Space Committee spoke in favor of incorporating such efforts in their organization.

The next community meeting will be held in June 2017. The City’s Project Manager is Allison Perlman who can be reached at allison.perlman@boston.gov or through the Mayor’s Office representative Maria Lanza at maria.lanza@boston.gov.