Formerly the site of an unattractive three-story municipal parking garage, Post Office Square is now home to a 1.7 acre street-level park, as well as a seven-level underground parking garage; it is located in the center of Boston’s financial district. There is a major bus stop one block away, plus subway stops two to three blocks away. Completed in 1991, Post Office Square was the culmination of an effort that began in 1983 with the formation of the Friends of Post Office Square. The park’s features include a fountain, a park pavilion, benches and sitting walls. One gazebo-like structure shelters a café; another covers the escalator entranceway to the garage. As for the garage, it contains 1400 parking stalls — nearly double the old structure — and does $12 million per year in business.

The Friends bought out the leasehold interest of the previous operator and paid the City $1 million for ownership of the land. According to the purchase agreement, the park and garage will be returned to the city at the end of 40 years, when the $80 million acquisition and development cost has been repaid. In the interim, Post Office Square pays the city $1 million per year in taxes; its operating surplus is paid yearly to the city’s general fund and Parks Trust Fund, for the maintenance of other city-owned parks.

Owned by: Friends of Post Office Square Inc., a for-profit, limited dividend corporation that calls itself a “civic corporation.” It comprises 20 Boston firms and individuals that planned and built the garage and park. Its members include Fleet Bank, Olympia & York, NYNEX, Eaton Vance Management, Equitable Life Assurance Society, State Street Bank, FMR Corp., Bank of Boston, Beacon Properties, and Leggat McCall. The Post Office is housed in the Old Federal Courthouse Building kitty-corner to the park. GSA is not an active partner in the park.

Managed by: Management is contracted to MarketPlace Development Corporation, a private company. MarketPlace handles the financing, operation, capital improvements, as well as provides the staff for Friends of Post Office Square; garage management is subcontracted to Standard Parking. The Friends staff includes a part-time president and vice-president, a full time general manager and an administrative assistant for the garage and park, and a full-time garage manager who is a Standard Parking employee. There is a manager on the site 24 hours a day; Friends has the option of “immediate cancellation,” which means that at any time, they can terminate Standard Parking’s contract. Since Post Office Square is not owned by the city, the park does not have to abide by city park policies or report to city officials.

Management Program:

Marketing and Promotion: The general manager handles all marketing and promotion, which are done for the garage.

Maintenance: Maintenance is performed by Standard Parking employees, while landscape care is contracted out to a landscaping firm and an arborist. There is also an artist used periodically to oversee technical repair work, while the original landscape architect is consulted occasionally for ongoing adjustments to the site.

Security & hospitality: There are no formal security guards, just City of Boston Park Rangers — who create a formal presence in the park — six days per week, and uniformed garage personnel. The garage users provide a continuous stream of people in and out of the park throughout the week. Underground in the garage there are video cameras, back-lit walls for better visibility and security, and 24-hour staffing.

Programming: Post Office Square Park is intended to be a passive park. Yet it has a 24-seat café that leases its space from the park and expands outdoors in good weather; the café also operates additional food carts. Twice a week Friends provide live music by local musicians, more as “background music” than entertainment; at Christmas time, a brass quintet also performs in the park. Underground, the garage houses car-care services, shoe-shine services, a dry cleaner, telephones, clean restrooms, free phone connection to a 24-hr. traffic hot line, and ATM machines.

Funding

The total annual operating budget for the park and the garage together is about $3.4 million. Revenues consist of $12 million of parking fees and $60,000 for the cafe lease. The 2000 expense budget for the park only is $293,734:

$107,283 Staffing
$26,033 Cleaning
$26,500 Security
$94,800 Landscaping
$26,768 Repair & Maintenance
$17,350 Programming
$7,000 Utilities
($12,000) Cafe Reimbursements

Capital investment: Regular capital projects occur each year, supported from the garage revenue. The largest capital project is the garage’s floor-coating program , which costs $1.5-$2 million. Smaller investments have included replacing trees, sidewalk repair programs, and new software for the garage.

Lessons

Post Office Square is an interesting convergence of public and private interests. The major corporate sponsors of the Friends of Post Office Square have provided for increased, clean and attractive parking for the the congested financial district, revenue to the City, and a public amenity in the form of the park that enhances the real-estate value of surrounding properties.

Contact

Friends of Post Office Square
Paul McGinn, Vice President
Karen Maffucci, General Manager
50 Federal Street
Boston, MA 02110
(617) 423-1500