Saturday, March 07, 2009

Gardner Plans Approved

The Boston Globe's Geoff Edgers reported yesterday that "the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that the expansion plans of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum do not violate restrictions created by the museum's founder in her will. The decision gives the museum permission to remove a carriage house on its Fenway site; create a new entrance, a new building for offices, a gift shop, a cafe, and visitor center; and build a glass walkway between the buildings."

The decision is here. Strictly speaking, Edgers's lede isn't entirely accurate: the holding was not that the plans "do not violate" the terms of Gardner's Will; instead, the court granted approval of what was admittedly a deviation from those terms. The Massachusetts Attorney General was on board with the plan. Opponents of the move (the "Friends of Historic Mission Hill") apparently argued that the museum failed "to consider other alternatives," but the court said "the record ... suggests otherwise": "There were a number of community meetings and public hearings, and the process provided exhaustive scrutiny and review of the [museum]'s proposed project, including consideration of alternatives."

The Globe's Alex Beam wrote about the dispute in January, noting that "both sides acknowledge that [the proposed] scheme cannot proceed under the terms of Gardner's 10-page will, filed in 1924. ... So last month the museum's lawyer ... asked the attorney general to permit a 'reasonable deviation' from Mrs. Gardner's wishes."