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American Planning Association honors Norman B. Leventhal Park with “Great Places in America” recognition

Jun 11, 2014

This afternoon, the Massachusetts chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) joined community members and city leaders to celebrate the designation of Norman B. Leventhal Park in Post Office Square as a Great Public Space, part of the APA’s national Great Places in America program. On hand to accept the award were the park’s founder and namesake Norman B. Leventhal and representatives from the Friends of Post Office Square, the civic organization that spearheaded the transformation of an above ground parking garage into an oasis of green space in downtown Boston over twenty years ago. Organizers marked the occasion with a brief ceremony commemorating the park’s unique history and extraordinary success.
“These days, most visitors to Post Office Square could hardly imagine that this terrific park was once a hulking, unsightly garage,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “Whether you’re looking for a place to relax for lunch or simply to get some fresh air, the park has become a real destination for everyone in our city to enjoy. I’d like to congratulate Norman B. Leventhal and the Friends of Post Office Square on this well-deserved honor.”
The APA announced the winners of its annual Great Places in America awards in October, and the organizers of today’s event waited for nicer weather to celebrate.
Efforts to redevelop the former Post Office Square parking garage began in 1982 when a group of civic and business leaders discussed the possibility of creating a public park at the site. The Friends of Post Office Square was incorporated in 1983, and the group purchased the garage and the remaining years on the operator’s lease from the City of Boston with assistance from the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) in 1987. The above ground garage was demolished in 1988, and a new underground facility was opened in 1990.  The park was completed in 1992 and rededicated as the Norman B. Leventhal Park in 1997. Four ramps that are hidden by landscaping are the only signs of the underground garage, which can accommodate up to 1,400 cars.
During warmer months, an estimated 1,500 visitors each weekday take advantage of the 1.7-acre park that features a beautiful lawn, promenade, fountains, and more than 125 plant species. Summer is a bustling time of year for the park, which hosts midday musical performances twice a week and a series of free fitness classes. More information about the park and a complete calendar of activities are available at
Notable guests at today’s event from the Friends of Post Office Square included Norman Leventhal, Chairman Emeritus; Bill McCall, Jr., Chairman of the Board of Directors; and Pamela Messenger, General Manager.  Also in attendance were Felipe Schwarz, AICP, and John “Tad” Read, AICP, the President and Vice President of the APA of Massachusetts’ board; and Kairos Shen, Director of Planning at the BRA. 
Mr. Schwarz said APA singled out the park for the public participation and planning that went into creating and designing it, the sustainable features of the park, and the public-private partnership that enables the park to remain open to the public year-round.  “This is an excellent model of how private enterprise can meet the needs of owners and shareholders at the same time it is managed as an attractive public amenity,” he said. 
Also praising the park’s success, Mr. Shen noted, "The lesson of Post Office Square is one of value creation through placemaking.  To imagine creating a park instead of a big building on a valuable parcel of land and to have it, in the long run, become a more economically valuable and desirable place is a model for Boston's future, particularly as developable sites become more scarce."
​Each year through the Great Places in America Program, which was launched in 2007, APA recognizes 10 Great Neighborhoods, 10 Great Streets, and 10 Great Public Spaces across the country.  Among the exemplary streets, neighborhoods and public spaces previously recognized in Boston are Washington Street, The Emerald Necklace, and the Back Bay.  Authentic places like these have been shaped by forward thinking and planning that showcases diverse architectural styles, promotes community involvement and accessibility, and fosters economic opportunity.  Additional details about each of the 2013 designees are available at
The APA’s recognition adds to a growing list of awards and honors that Norman B. Leventhal Park has received since its opening.

About the American Planning Association, Massachusetts Chapter

APA-MA is a nonprofit professional organization with over 1,200 members leading the field of city, regional and community planning across the Commonwealth. The Chapter’s mission is to increase planning expertise for professional planners and planning officials. To find out more, go to:

About the Boston Redevelopment Authority

As the City of Boston’s urban planning and economic development agency, the BRA works in partnership with the community to plan Boston's future while respecting its past. The BRA prepares residents for new opportunities through training, human service and job creation. The BRA guides physical, social, and economic change in Boston's neighborhoods and its downtown to shape a more prosperous, sustainable, and beautiful city for all.

Photo caption: Kairos Shen, Director of Planning for the BRA, congratulates Norman B. Leventhal and the Friends of Post Office Square on receiving the American Planning Association’s Great Public Spaces designation for Norman B. Leventhal Park.

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