$9.8 million project includes accessibility, equity, art, and athletics upgrades
Mayor Michelle Wu today joined Rodnell Collins, Malcolm X’s nephew and president of the Malcolm X–Ella L. Little-Collins Family Foundation, the Friends and Stewards of Malcolm X Park, youth sports teams, and the Boston Parks and Recreation Department for a groundbreaking ceremony at Malcolm X Park. The event marked $9.6 million in renovations to enhance the recreation for children of all ages, increase lighting, improve courts, and offer art and educational spaces.
“To fully honor Malcolm X’s legacy, we must honor his commitment to inclusion, equity, and accessibility as we maintain his namesake park,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “I’m grateful to the Roxbury community, whose valuable feedback guided us in updating the park in ways that best serve our residents, and look forward to how Malcolm X Park will continue to empower and unite community in Boston.”
Situated on 15.12 acres at 150 M.L.K. Jr Boulevard, Malcolm X Park, formerly known as Washington Park, is one of the largest and most popular recreational parks in Roxbury. Originally built in 1867 on the land called Honeysuckle Hill, the park offers a blend of both passive and active areas. While the athletic fields, courts, the amphitheater, and playground provide opportunities for recreational activities, the passive areas around Honeysuckle Hill offer a serene environment for relaxation, reflection, and connection with nature.
The park’s comprehensive renovation was budgeted at $8.8 million for construction and $690,000 for design.
“There is a quote of my uncle’s that is very special to me: ‘Education is key, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today,’' said Rodnell P. Collins, nephew of Malcolm X and President of the Malcolm X - Ella L. Little-Collins Family Foundation. “With its new design, restoration, and construction, Malcolm X Park will continue to educate, inspire, and invigorate the community. My family was always passionate about nature and the outdoors and I especially want to thank the women who have rolled up their sleeves and pitched in to help, whether it’s been with education or cleaning up the park going back to my mother Ella, Malcolm X's sister. The lesson we were taught was that when something needs doing, you don't wait for someone else to do it. Live by example.”
Children’s play features include age-appropriate areas for children 2–5 years old and 5–12 years old. Water and hillside slope play areas have been augmented by seating. Decorative tiles created by children during a previous renovation were repurposed as part of the playground renovation.
The park’s four basketball and two tennis courts were reconstructed with new surfacing and LED lighting that can be controlled from each court. The basketball courts retained the terraced layout which is culturally important to the community as children start out at the lower courts and work their way up to the top court as their skills develop. The top court was enlarged to be regulation size and additional seating, benches, and a scoreboard were added.
The project also retains and protects a concrete panel that has footprints and signatures of past Boston Celtics players and adds pickleball striping to the tennis courts. The court area features a grill seating area with chess/game tables and the bottom court offers mathematics fun with a game called Fraction Ball for the youngest players to learn fractions while playing outside.
Based on requests gathered through the community process hosted by the Parks Department, the athletic field was renovated for multi-use with a natural grass field seasonally lined for softball, soccer, kickball, and disc golf. The renovations also include a walking loop around the field, a new softball backstop, LED lighting and scoreboard, and ADA accessibility. Exercise equipment, seating and gathering areas, and a new barbecue plaza are also a part of the improvements.
"As a Roxbury native, I've had the pleasure of experiencing the recreation and respite that Malcolm X Park has brought to my family and community. " said Reverend Mariama White-Hammond, Chief of Environment, Energy and Open Space. "I am grateful to the community members who spent countless hours engaging in the redesign process to enhance the features of the park so that all residents can accessibly play, rest and fellowship in this park."
The design team of Weston & Sampson navigated the challenges of 90 feet of grade change at the heavily-used and historic park to protect stone walls and puddingstone outcroppings while achieving a major increase in accessibility. Working with the City’s Disability Commission, the designers were able to make all entrances to the park accessible as well as create an accessible path that connects Dale Street to Martin Luther King. Jr. Boulevard. The components—field, walking loop, courts, playground, water play, barbecue area, and new amphitheater space— all have accessible routes from the entrances. In addition, each of the basketball and tennis courts feature accessible entrances, and an accessible route has been created to the top of the hill, allowing visitors of all abilities to enjoy the natural beauty of the area and the surrounding views.
Additionally, four artist teams will be creating artwork honoring the legacy of Malcolm X. Three basketball court murals will be painted by teams led by Rob “Problak” Gibbs (Court #1), Sydney G. James (Court #2), and Otra Ciudad and Nomada Urbano (Court #3). Genara “Go5” Ortega and Luis “TakeOne” Taforo will lead a team to create a mural on the rear wall of the BCYF Shelburne, which faces into the park. The artist teams for these projects were recommended by a working group of community members composed of Roxbury-based artists, activists, residents, Malcolm X’s family members, and frequent park users. The Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture worked with mural consultant Street Theory to bring these murals to the park through municipal Percent for Art funds. The murals are slated to be installed in spring 2024.
“These murals will be the product of a diverse group of artistic perspectives coming together, including many local artists whose ties to the neighborhood will shine through in the final designs,” said Kara Elliott-Ortega, Chief of Arts & Culture. “We are proud to invest in four projects that will reflect the community’s hopes for the park and make it a more vibrant place to gather, relax, and play.”
As part of the community acknowledgement portion of the project, local artist and carpenter Smok retrofitted benches with names of local figures and activists important to the community. In addition, Roxbury resident Omo Moses worked with the design team and contractor to create a Math Trail throughout the park. Moses is the founder of the company Math Talk, bringing math education to children through play.
Malcolm X Park was the pilot for the City of Boston’s new equitable procurement strategies. In collaboration with the Department of Supplier Diversity, the Parks Department required bidders for the Malcolm X Park Improvements project to meet specific goals for the utilization of women- and minority-owned subcontractors. In addition to the meeting standards for the employment of people of color, women, and Boston residents set by the City's Boston Residents Jobs Policy, bidders for Malcolm X Park were required to award a percentage of their contract to minority-owned subcontractors and a separate percentage of subcontracts to women-owned businesses. Project contractor Fleming Brothers not only met both the Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Women Business Enterprise (WBE) subcontractor percentages, but was also 6% over the requirement for WBE utilization.
Source: City of Boston