Armenian Heritage Cornerstone of Boston Neighborhood: Unique Collaboration between Private and Public Sectors

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By Alin K. Gregorian
Mirror-Spectator Staff

BOSTON — Come springtime, the Armenian community of the greater Boston area can see the handiwork of acting as one, namely, the completion of the Armenian Heritage Park, a unique privately-funded public project.

The ceremonial groundbreaking was held on September 9, 2010, with the participation of Gov. Deval Patrick, Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

The park, located between Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Christopher Columbus Park, at the tip of the North End, will have a labyrinth, a circular winding path in grass and inlaid stone, celebrating life’s journey, with a single jet of water, representing hope and rebirth.

The focal point of the park will be an abstract sculpture, a split dodecahedron monument. The statute and the base are being constructed by A&A Industries of Peabody, which has been founded and run by the Mardiros family of Wakefield. The Mardiroses are donating the sculpture, both the top and the base, which including material and labor, is estimated to cost about $500,000.

The base was transported to Boston this week from the firm’s headquarters in Peabody.

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Speaking recently from their sprawling, 120,000-square-foot headquarters, the members of the Mardiros family, including Aurelian Mardiros, who founded the firm along with his wife, Anahit, and their sons, Antranig and Vartan, discussed their work, the evolution of A&A Industries and their decision to gift the monument and the base to the Armenian Heritage Park.

(A third son, Gary, also works for the family firm but was away the day of the visit.)

The monument, designed by architect Donald Tellalian and engineered by Gregorian Engineers, is 14 feet long, 10 feet wide and one foot deep and was lifted by crane to be put into the hole dug for it.

Work is being done on the reflecting pool at the Armenian Heritage Park

The base had “steel rods and templates of what the sculpture would look like facing down,” said Antranig Mardiros. In fact, much thought and effort has gone into the base so that the reconfiguring of the statue would always go smoothly.

Tellalian said that the reconfigurations for the next 30 years have already been planned.

From Romania to Boston

The Mardiroses got the idea to donate the sculpture after they were approached by the Knights of Vartan.

“Three years ago, the Knights of Vartan held a convocation and they brought up that the most important thing is that whatever we do, the Armenian Genocide should be recognized at the Armenian Heritage Park. It is important that we acknowledge what happened 100 years ago. There is not a price that you can put on that,” said Aurelian Mardiros.

Aurelian Mardiros arrived from Romania in 1975 and married Anahit, a fellow Romanian-Armenian, in 1980.

He started his firm in 1978. The company does specialized machining and manufacturing jobs, where precision to the minutest degree is called for, in fields such as defense, high tech, medicine and aerospace, including working on a part of a Rolls Royce aircraft engine. They do not do any architectural work and the Armenian Heritage Park project is the first of its kind for them.

The next area they are expanding into is robotics, Antranig Mardiros said.

Aurelian Mardiros had learned the trade of precision cutting in Romania and when he arrived in the US, he studied business for three years. He combined his two areas of knowledge by opening a precision cutting plant in South Boston in 1978. The company moved several times, each time to a bigger plant, until they finally settled into their massive digs in Peabody in 1994.

One of the reasons for their success has been that the firm took jobs only in the high tech and semi-conductor industries, rather than automotive. “This is a fast-paced, high-growth sector,” said Antranig Mardiros.

His brother, Vartan, concurred, adding that the size of their plant also helps them in getting some large contracts as well as contracts for large items, which smaller companies with smaller plants would not be able to accommodate.

The company has about 40 employees. Anahit Mardiros, the chief financial officer of the company, said, “We want to see the company grow and see the children follow in our  footsteps and stay tied to the community.”

Road to the Park

The Armenian community’s road to the Armenian Heritage Park has been a long and arduous one yet the project was able to unite the Greater-Boston Armenian community as few have in recent decades.

“It was definitely worth it,” said Tellalian, adding that it was “the generosity and skills of such families as the Mardiros family, and the unity of the Armenian community and resolve of fundraising” that has made the project possible.

Concurred Antranig Mardiros, “It shows that unity among Armenians actually exits.”

“We sowed the seeds for that early on,” said James Kalustian, the president of the Armenian Heritage Foundation and a tireless proponent of the project. “The Knights spearheaded a group of organizations and churches. We wanted to make sure that everyone was involved. We got as many involved as possible and worked on a mission statement and guidelines. This cause is one everyone shares. The community deserves a lot of credit. We all worked hard to keep people focused. We were finally speaking with one voice.”

Kalustian said the mission of the park is twofold: remember the Armenian Genocide and celebrate the immigrant heritage. Thus, he said, “it is very, very inclusive.”

“It is the moral satisfaction of doing something for the community,” Aurelian Mardiros added. “The value of this project is that when a tourist comes to Boston, we are going to get a level of recognition for our identity and our culture.”

Tellalian also praised the North End community for their support.

Kalustian explained the road to the opening of the park. “It’s progressing well. There was a delay in July when we uncovered the remnant of a slurry wall from an earlier construction but it is no trouble.”

The heavy construction, he noted, would be completed in the fall, with the rest of the work finished by spring.

Fundraiser, Lecture Planned

So far, the project has raised close to $5.8 million. Kalustian said that $3 to $3.5 million is needed to build the structure and the reflecting Kalustian said they would need to raise at least $200,000 more to get to a grand total of $6 million to ensure that the project will be maintained in perpetuity.

To reach its goal, the Armenian Heritage Foundation will host a fundraiser on November 7, titled Party at the Other Park, at the Ted Williams Pavilion Club of Fenway Park.

Minimum donation is $150 per person. For donations of $1,000 or more, visitors can have a tour of the park. There will be food, drinks, as well as sports and television celebrities. “It is going to be a fun event,” Kalustian said.

Kalustian praised the efforts of all involved in designing and constructing the monument, as well as several others for keeping everyone on the same page.

Kalustian praised not only the Armenians involved with the project, but several well-placed friends of the community. “[Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation] Jeff Mullan and Gov. Deval Patrick were incredibly cooperative.”

In addition, the K. George and Carolann S. Najarian, MD Lecture on Human Rights, a program of the Armenian Heritage Foundation, will be held on Thursday, October 20, at 7 p.m. at Faneuil Hall, with keynote speaker Paul Rusesabagina, a Rwandan human rights activist. The program is free and open to the public.