First Two Community Preservation Projects Approved; Will Rehabilitate Park, Restore Historic Paintings

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Designs for the improvements to Irving Park. The project was recommended by Community Preservation Committee for approval from the City Council, which did so on June 21.

A park in Watertown will get a face lift and paintings in City Hall that are showing their age will be refurbished in the first two projects in Watertown approved to use money from the Community Preservation Act funds.

On Tuesday night, the City Council unanimously approved the two projects recommended by the Community Preservation Committee.

Community Preservation Committee Chair Mark Kraczkiewicz thanked the groups that brought forward the projects.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to the Historical Society of Watertown for bringing forward the painting restoration, and a debt of gratitude to Greg St. Louis and Bob Dirico of the DPW for bringing forward the proposal for the restoration of Irving Park.”

Irving Park is an oval shaped grassed area that sits just off Irving Street, near North Beacon Street. Some of the Council commented that the area needed improvement.

“I always drive by this little park and say ‘Boy, what a disaster. No one is ever there. It is not really a destination,'” Council President Mark Sideris said. “What you are doing here is giving the neighborhood a destination. I think it is a wonderful use of the funds, as well as, the historic preservation of the paintings. I fully support the proposed projects before the Council.”

John Gannon added: “It was always sleeping giant. Now it will be a jewel thanks to your efforts.”

The Irving Park project will receive $294,195 in Community Preservation funds from the outdoor and recreation reserve. Designers from MDLA brought forward three proposals, and the final plan is an amalgamation of the three, Kraczkiewicz said, based on public comments.

The park will have a new central gathering area with benches and lighting.

“We would have a dark sky bollard light near the seating,” Kraczkiewicz said. “People confirm that the park sometimes has some rowdiness in it. The lights will reduce the opportunity for rowdiness.”

New plantings include trees, plants, and reseeding of some of the grassy area. Also, a new sidewalk with granite curbing both along the grass and along the roadway. While the new sidewalk and curbing will be done at the same time, Kraczkiewicz said, the funding for that work will come from the Department of Public Works.

Councilor Lisa Feltner asked who would be responsible to make sure that the project goes as designed, and who will be responsible for the upkeep of the park. Dirico, head of the DPW’s Parks Department, said that that DPW will soon be hiring an arborist who will take care of the trees. Kraczkiewicz said Watertown’s Community Preservation Coordinator, Lanae Handy, will make sure the project is properly built.

City of Watertown One of two historic paintings in Watertown’s City Hall that will be repaired using Community Preservation funds.

There will also be plantings and benches on the east end of the park overlooking the length of the park, and new plantings on the west end.

The other project devotes $33,000 to restore the paintings showing the historic geography of Watertown that are mounted on the walls of City Hall, near the front entrance. The project was proposed by members of the Historical Society of Watertown, and the work will be done by Louise Orsini, who is a former fellow in paintings conservation at the Harvard Art Museums and Assistant Paintings Conservator at Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

“The paintings will be transported in specially developed crates and the conservator will try to stabilize the paint edges,” Kraczkiewicz said. “They will patch the holes and restore the missing paint.”

The paintings are surrounded by a brass frame, but some of the brass is missing.

“The Historical Society tried to find replacement parts, but could not,” Kraczkiewicz said. “(The conservator) will find someone to fabricate a wooden part and paint it in the appropriate gilded color to match the brass.”

The Community Preservation Funds come from the Community Preservation Act, which Watertown voters approved in 2016. The money can go to three areas: affordable housing, historic preservation, and outdoor/recreation. No affordable housing project was passed this year. A proposal to build a two-story house on Nichols Avenue for people with special needs was not recommended for approval by the Community Preservation Committee.

Council Vice President Vincent Piccirilli thanked the Community Preservation Committee.

“All I can say is ‘Wow!’ Thank you to the committee,” he said. “I know the first couple years were bumpy getting things up and running. These are two great projects, things that are really going to enhance things around town. I am looking forward to seeing many more great projects coming from the community to the Community Preservation Committee to the Council for funding.”

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