By Dan Murphy
The Department of Conservation and Recreation has initiated a planning and design process that reimagines the long-dormant Lee Pool complex on the Charles River Esplanade as a waterfront pavilion with adjacent parkland, as well as a LEED-certified building that would be the first new construction on the park in more than 50 years.
According to Troy Wall, director of communications for DCR, the state is partnering with two local nonprofits, Hill House and the Esplanade Association, in this collaborative effort to reactivate the pool, which opened in 1951, but has been closed to the public in the 1990s. (Today, it is used for maintenance and storage purposes, Wall said.) Maryann Thompson Architects of Watertown has been awarded a $200,000 contract to survey the project site, including the existing bathhouse; to develop conceptual design alternatives; and to create a final schematic design. After an initial public meeting tentatively scheduled for next month, DCR and its consultants will solicit community input in regard to three design alternatives, which they anticipate presenting at a second public meeting in May.
Jesse Baker, co-president of Hill House’s board of directors, said the community center is pleased to see the state take a renewed interest in the site two decades after its closure.
“With the recent closure of nearly 50,000 square-feet of indoor athletic space at Basketball City and the Boston Athletic Club, the community is desperate to meet the needs of the thousands of youth, residents and working professionals who have lost access to basic health and fitness facilities,” Baker wrote in an e-mail. “As the gateway to the Esplanade, we have a great opportunity to return it to its recreational origins while also creating an extraordinary venue for public events, civic meetings, arts and music exhibitions and much more.”
State Rep. Jay Livingstone, who has long advocated for revitalizing the site, hopes to take an active role in the effort as it progresses.
“I’m excited that DCR is engaging in a public process to return the Lee Pool area to public use,” Livingstone said. “I look forward to continuing to work with DCR and its partners, Hill House and the Esplanade Association, to make this project a success.”