BHCA Expresses Concern with Proposed Citywide Arts Festival’s Impact

February 19, 2013
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In a formal letter to event organizers, the Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) board of directors expressed concern with the potential impact on the Boston Common of  “Outside the Box” – an inaugural citywide arts festival planned for July 12 to 21.

Besides four locations on the Common, the proposed festival would bring programming to Copley Square and Christopher Columbus Park, as well as to Boston theatres, concert halls, conservatories and other indoor venues. Offerings would be largely free of charge and include theatre, dance, music, circus, magic and culinary arts. (The full schedule is slated to be released next month, according to the festival Web site at www.outsidetheboxboston.org).

“You have described an ‘Olympic type’ grand opening event with representations from over a hundred nations and 20,000 to 30,000 people per day on the Boston Common’s Parade Ground alone,” BHCA Chairman Steve Young wrote to Kevin T. Carlon, managing director of Outside the Box. “The largest recent permitted event on the Common, the annual Shakespeare on the Common, draws approximately 80,000 attendees over mostly evenings for two weeks. You are proposing 200,000 to 300,000 attendees over 10 days, or 20,000 to 30,000 per day.  The Boston Common Management Plan limits events on the Parade Ground to 10,000.”

While the Boston Common Management Plan limits events on the parade ground to 72 hours, Young wrote that the festival would transform the entire Boston Common into an “arena” for the event for 10 days.

The proposal also includes the addition of three stages and a “food demonstration center” to the Common at a time when “Shakespeare on the Common” is ongoing and during the height of tourist season.

Young described the proposed locations of stages for the festival as “problematic,” particularly one site at South Charles and Beacon streets.

“Noise issues there have been common over the years and have recently been addressed by not putting large stages at that corner so as to protect the residents of Beacon Street,” Young wrote. “The turf in that area is also very sensitive, and it is unlikely to withstand the type of traffic that your event envisions.”

While the BHCA expresses “no formal opinion” on a smaller festival, Young advised, “Smaller events are more consistent with the Boston Common Management Plan.”

Young encouraged event organizers to continue to working with the BHCA Parks and Public Spaces Committee, Friends of the Public Garden and the Boston Parks Department to hatch “a more acceptable proposal that will benefit all the citizens of the City of Boston.”

The correspondence followed a Jan. 30 meeting that included event organizers; Colin Zick, chair of the Parks and Public Spaces Committee; and Liz Vizza of the Friends of the Public Garden, among others. At that time, Zick and Vizza urged organizers to consider reducing both the size and duration of the event.

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