Each year the Boston Preservation Society awards projects that preserve the city’s architectural heritage. This year (at a ceremony held at an award- winner itself, the Paramount Center in Downtown Crossing) Peabody Square’s Reconstruction project will be honored with the 2012 Neighborhood Restoration Effort Award. A seven-strong committee chose the area from more than a dozen submissions. Some projects, however, weren’t even contenders.
“We didn’t even want to get out of the car,” says Preserva-tion Society Board President Susan Park of visiting various neighborhoods. “It is just so obvious as soon as you see it.”
That wasn’t the case when they visited Peabody Square, whose facelift was easily recognized as a beneficial long-lasting change.
“Peabody Square was a car disaster,” says Park of its former traffic gridlock. “It became more like a village green. It’s a charming little square now, the planners got it right.”
Successful neighborhood regeneration doesn’t begin or end at city hall, though.
“It’s not city planners that make a residential area work in the long-term. It’s having people who care about their environment,” says Park. “Apart from good design and planning, the winner has a sense of community. There are people there who advocated for change and care about it, and taking care of it once the city is finished doing their part.”
Some neighborhoods don’t improve in the long-term, no matter how much money the city lavishes in renovation.
“Many places have residents who think that it’s the city’s responsibility to take care of their neighborhood and everything falls into disrepair. Ashmont has residents and businesses who care and who take care of their neighborhood.”
What makes Peabody Square worth preserving?
Historic landmarks include the Peabody Square clock (1910), All Saints’ Episcopal Church (1892) and the rebuilt Ashmont T station (1928/2007). “The T station blends in, it doesn’t overshadow the historic features.” Park says. Her favorite one? “I love the horse trough. There aren’t many left. It’s a throwback to another era, a very lovely era.”