Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Boston's pop up plaza

I was a little too skeptical in the previous entry, "A good chance that the Bloomberg-Harvard initiative to train mayors to achieve great things won't be that successful," about mayors as change agents.

Photo: Keith Bedford, Boston Globe.  Pedestrians along parts of a two-block stretch in Downtown Crossing will be able to sit and enjoy the street Tuesday.

When mayors are visionary and willing to support and/or initiate innovation, cities are able to be a lot more experimental and innovative.

But at the same time, I'm right that focusing on developing the superhero mayor is likely to be more unsuccessful than successful because if residents, other elected officials, and people who work for government aren't part of the change effort, then it is much more difficult to bring change about.

David L. Ryan, Boston Globe.

Boston is fortunate in that its past mayor, the now deceased Tom Menino, and the current mayor, Martin Walsh, favor/ed urban design and sustainable mobility initiatives in ways that most city mayors do not, especially in terms of consistent focus (versus one-off initiatives).

Today, Boston did a kind of "park(ing) day maneuver where they closed off a lane of a street, Franklin, in the Downtown Crossing district in Downtown Boston, to show how rebalancing away from cars and traffic public space towards pedestrians and other positive activity at the street level can make for better places (‘Pop-up plaza’ transforms Downtown Crossing — for now" and "City confident pop-up plaza on Franklin Street will sit well," Boston Globe).  From the article
Chris Osgood, the city’s chief of streets, said Monday that the experiment would be largely about making the city more enjoyable. He pointed to areas such as Quincy Market, which caters to many more pedestrians than drivers.

“It’s a good example of ways in which places can become not just a place you go by every day, but where you want to end up and want to be,” he said.

The “pop-up plaza” is a prelude to what the city wants there eventually: a permanent plaza that would invite more people to sit down in a busy area outside Millennium Tower, one of the highest-profile new luxury condominium complexes in Boston. Millennium Partners, the company that developed the tower, worked with the city, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Public Works Department, and the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District to set up the pilot.
It's rare for mayors and government agencies to stick their necks out like that.

 Of course, doing it between 8 am and 11 am doesn't have the same kind of impact and visibility as it would during lunchtime, when more people have flexible time and the ability to explore.

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