Conservancy loses bid for Armenian park care
Contract goes to UGL
The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy has lost its bid to maintain the Armenian Heritage Park, a half-acre park that sits in the middle of the Greenway park system. The lost maintenance contract is likely to increase scrutiny of the Conservancy’s cost structure, as the Boston nonprofit heads into a critical lease negotiation with its landlord, the state Department of Transportation.
James Kalustian, president of the Armenian Heritage Foundation, said the foundation recently selected the commercial property services firm UGL Services to maintain the Armenian Heritage Park. UGL has an office in Auburndale.
“The Conservancy bid provided significant value, but their price was a little bit higher” than UGL, Kalustian said, declining to be more specific. Conservancy officials declined comment.
Conservancy critics in the city’s business community have questioned the nonprofit’s cost structure, arguing that the group should be able to maintain the Greenway parks for less than the Conservancy spends now. Conservancy leaders have responded by arguing that their expenses are in line with, or below, what other high-end urban parks spend on maintenance. Being outbid at Armenian Heritage Park – a space that contains the same sort of fountains, sculpture, plantings, and lighting that makes the rest of the Greenway expensive to maintain – may complicate that argument.
CommonWealth’s summer issue detailed the Conservancy’s high-stakes lease renewal talks with MassDOT, the agency that owns the Greenway parks sitting atop the Big Dig tunnels. MassDOT provides the Conservancy’s single-largest source of revenue in the Conservancy’s $4.6 million budget. However, MassDOT has told the Conservancy that it won’t extend the Conservancy’s lease beyond 2013 unless the Conservancy can commit to operating without state funds by the end of the new lease, in 2018.
The state’s demand that the Conservancy operate without public funds put the organization in an apparent no-win situation, since a number of Greenway landlords told CommonWealth they would be unwilling to shoulder a larger portion of the Conservancy’s budget.Conservancy officials have pointedly avoided accepting MassDOT’s demands. Instead, the parks group has said it is studying whether it will be able to wean itself off state funding. “We’re pretty clear about our expenses,” Georgia Murray, chair of the Conservancy’s board, told CommonWealth. “We need to know where the possible revenues are. Until we know that, it’s impossible to know what level the state will be in at.”
The Conservancy will unveil a five-year business plan at its board meeting next week. That plan will indicate whether or not the Conservancy believes it can operate the Greenway parks without state funds.