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New Lights For Chin Park

May 21, 2021 : The Boston Guardian, by Carrie Klein

Aunty Kay and Uncle Frank Chin Park is the first announced recipient of MassDevelopment’s Commonwealth Places COVID-19 Response Round.

Since October, MassDevelopment has awarded $224,965 to 21 local projects. Up to $390,000 will be distributed this round.

The funding at Chin Park will go towards improving park lighting.

“This is really the front yard of Chinatown.

It’s where the neighborhood celebrates; it’s where the neighborhood comes together,” said Chris Cook, executive director of the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy.

“We’re very excited to be able to to safely extend the hours that the community gets to use this space.”

Conservancy staff worked closely with Chinatown residents to determine what park improvements were most desired.

Chin Park is the regular site for musical performances and festivals. Each year, it displays a temporary public art installation in honor of the Lunar New Year.

“This is a space that has really been an outlet and has been treasured by the community throughout the pandemic,” said Laura Christopher, innovation officer.

The Commonwealth Places Grant was created in 2016, backed by the idea that improving public spaces leads to economic development and a cycle of investment. Grants are available to communities below 120% of the median household income in Massachusetts.

Previous Commonwealth Places Grants have funded public art installations and food and entertainment events that enliven community spaces.

Chin Park has been awarded an initial $10,000. If the project team raise $40,000 more, they will receive an additional matching grant from MassDevelopment, for a total of $90,000.

The Conservancy team expects to receive support from significant philanthropic donors to reach their goal.

In the past, MassDevelopment has restricted the amount any individual could donate. But with the knowledge that many community members are less able to contribute funds, that restriction has been removed. “We didn’t want these projects to be held up because of the constraints of the fundraising,” Christopher said.

Applications for the Covid-19 round of grants will be accepted as long as funds allow. Mass Development’s support for community organizations is complemented by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Shared Streets and Spaces funding grant program, launched last summer. Funding has gone to towns and cities to help improve outdoor public spaces, like bike and bus lanes, crosswalks, and bike share stations. Construction in Chin Park is estimated to begin in the fall. The Conservancy plans on continuing to engage with neighborhood organizations to make sure the park remains a space for entertainment and safe gatherings. “The park is also for those quiet moments when people need to get away from their Zoom calls, when people need to get away from their apartments, when they need a place for their kids just to breathe,” Cook said. “It’s a beautiful place. The reason it’s beautiful is because of the community that surrounds it, and that’s why we want to take care of it.”