Downtown Crossing

KentXie

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City plans to re-brand Downtown Crossing
By Donna Goodison
Tuesday, June 6, 2006


Copley Place is known for its high-end retail, the Shops at Prudential are backed by strong marketing efforts, and Faneuil Hall Marketplace is a tourist destination.

Downtown Crossing, meanwhile, suffers an identity crisis.

In an ongoing but slow-moving effort to turn around the ailing shopping district, the Boston Redevelopment Authority is seeking consultants? proposals for an ?identity and brand? strategy for Downtown Crossing.

?Right now, it?s all over the place,? said Randi Lathrop, the BRA?s deputy director of community planning. ?We?re looking for someone to come in with their best ideas and look at redefining the downtown - to think out of the box and have unconventional solutions.?

The fate of Downtown Crossing is at a crucial point. The closing of Filene?s is imminent, and New York-based Vornado Realty Trust?s mixed-use redevelopment plans stand to reshape that block.

Now the BRA is looking for ambitious ideas for Downtown Crossing as a whole that are akin to the cleaning up of Times Square, Lathrop said. It wants proposals addressing how pedestrian traffic should drive development, services/retailers missing from the area, and whether Downtown Crossing should reopen to cars.

But one Downtown Crossing landlord said the city must be realistic about who?s congregating there.

?It?s not a crowd which is conducive to attracting people who have money to spend,? said the landlord, who did not want to be identified.

Landlord Robert Posner is trying to lure a tenant to replace the exiting Barnes & Noble on Washington Street.

So far, no retailers are interested, and Posner said the building will be vacant for the first time since 1928.

?The feedback we have gotten from a couple of prospective tenants is that the pushcarts so destroy the shopping atmosphere, that they don?t want to be there,? he said.
 

Ron Newman

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DarkFenX said:
Landlord Robert Posner is trying to lure a tenant to replace the exiting Barnes & Noble on Washington Street.

So far, no retailers are interested, and Posner said the building will be vacant for the first time since 1928.
No, it was vacant after W.T. Grant closed, until Barnes & Noble moved in.

?The feedback we have gotten from a couple of prospective tenants is that the pushcarts so destroy the shopping atmosphere, that they don?t want to be there,? he said.
Pushcarts destroy the shopping atmosphere? Pushcarts are part of the shopping atmosphere. They provide an opportunity for people to engage in commerce who can't afford to lease a storefront. We should have more of them.

Faneuil Hall has pushcarts, the CambridgeSide Galleria has pushcarts, the Prudential has pushcarts, I think even the excessively upscale Copley Place has a few.
 

statler

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But one Downtown Crossing landlord said the city must be realistic about who?s congregating there.

?It?s not a crowd which is conducive to attracting people who have money to spend,? said the landlord, who did not want to be identified.
*wink, wink* :roll:

I really don't get this. It's right on the edge of the financial district, there are two major thoroughfares that lead from the FD (Franklin & Summer) and you need to pass through DTX to get to the Common and Park St station. The people I see there tend to be quite mixed. Young, old, business types, urban types, yuppies & punks. I guess a mixed crowd is the wrong type of crowd.
 

philip

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:roll: I don't see how the pushcarts affect the shopping atmosphere. I think they add great character to the area. That comment seems silly to me. And NO CARS!!

More "upscale" stores without becoming Copley or even the Pru would help also. Othere than Filenes and Macys there seems to be alot of low end stores down there selling crap. Stores with better quality products are needed.

The Virgin Megastore (as someone suggested here before) or another giant music co. would fit the mix greatly. Or the city could even encourage Apple to look around. A few brands such as these (smartly chosen) would add greatly to the area.

I remember a while ago a proposal for creating a BID fizzled or was shot down. Downtown could definitely benefit from this. BID's have been very successful in other cities.

I think encouraging more businesses to open further down Washington or having "anchor" tenants on both ends of Washington and Summer and Winter could help with traffic flow and allow "fill-in" businesses to be more successful.

Physically, the area itself could also use a good hosedown too. Even for a very urban place its very bland, grimy and univiting. I believe Macys was to redo the facade on their building adding windows and making the street level more inviting. Thats a good start. But, the city or BID could do much more to make the area more attractive and inviting.

A couple residential towers and some activity later in the evening (restaurants, nightlife) perhap connecting it more to Chinatown and the
the theatre district creating a more 24hr. area would be a huge+++.

I don't think thtis is the end of Downtown Crossing. If its managed properly it could definitely make a comeback
 

statler

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philip said:
Physically, the area itself could also use a good hosedown too. Even for a very urban place its very bland, grimy and univiting. I believe Macys was to redo the facade on their building adding windows and making the street level more inviting. Thats a good start. But, the city or BID could do much more to make the area more attractive and inviting.

A couple residential towers and some activity later in the evening (restaurants, nightlife) perhap connecting it more to Chinatown and the
the theatre district creating a more 24hr. area would be a huge+++.
I think these are the two key points. The area needs to just plain look better. It need to be cleaner and those stupid pavers all need to torn up and replaced. Not the piecemeal repairs they are doing now. As to what to replaced them with I'm not sure. Not asphalt. Maybe tinted concrete mixed with granite blocks.
And Downtown Crossing needs a lot more restaurants. And a few bars & nightclubs. I think those things will start to come after 45 Province St is completed. Once the residents are in place the services to support them will start to pop up. (I hope).
 

Ron Newman

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If part of the Filene's property became a hotel, that would help a lot.
 

chumbolly

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A BID is exactly what DTC needs, but the police union kills it every time.

I think it's telling that a landlord--the one who asked to remain anonymous--thinks that the people that spend time in DTC aren't the type to spend money. To say nothing of what's implied by that attitude, build it and they will come, Mr. Lack-of Foresight. Times Square used to be a whole lot more skeevy than DTC, and now it is one of the economic engines of New York. I hate to say it because I love a lot of the historical architecture in the area, but this sort of attitude is a good reason to allow developers to tear the place down and put in some big new buildings. Let the slumlords (Levin Trust) sell to people who know how to make money by investing money.
 

PaulC

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crime

In the 80's downtown crossing had the highest pilferage rate in the entire country. I don't know if it's still true.

I've been harassed many times there because of the color of my skin - white. I've walked passed gangs of black kids who feel free to shove me as they pass.
 

Ron Newman

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And I'm white and walk through there several times a week without incident. Maybe it's an age thing.
 

statler

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I walk through there all the time and never had a problem.
I've had kids brush me as I've walked by, but I just shrugged it off as a 'kids these days' type of thing.
It's all part of living in a city.
 

vanshnookenraggen

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statler said:
But one Downtown Crossing landlord said the city must be realistic about who?s congregating there.

?It?s not a crowd which is conducive to attracting people who have money to spend,? said the landlord, who did not want to be identified.
*wink, wink* :roll:

I really don't get this. It's right on the edge of the financial district, there are two major thoroughfares that lead from the FD (Franklin & Summer) and you need to pass through DTX to get to the Common and Park St station. The people I see there tend to be quite mixed. Young, old, business types, urban types, yuppies & punks. I guess a mixed crowd is the wrong type of crowd.
Seriously? You don't get this? Go to DTX and then go to Newbury St, the Pru, Faneuil Hall and tell me what you see. Whenever I went to DTX I saw many more lower class black people than I see at any other shopping area in the city.

It is where poor people from Roxbury go to shop because its where they can get to on the T. Yes you see other people but the majority of people I have seen at DTX were lower class blacks.

The only way I see DTX coming back is if there are a few luxury condos built around the area (and some hotels). The area will then get cleaner. And whiter. And then where are poor blacks gonna shop? I think that this whole issue is more about pushing around poor people without doing anything to help them.

You want to clean up DTX? Clean up Roxbury. Make it a safe place to work and shop.
 

statler

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^^Nope.
I see a large majority of white folk in places like Newbury St, Faneuil Hall, & Copley, but I see a healthy mix of people in Downtown Crossing. Personally I prefer the mix. Life in the city.
 

vanshnookenraggen

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statler said:
^^Nope.
I see a large majority of white folk in places like Newbury St, Fanuial Hall, & Copley, but I see a healthy mix of people in Downtown Crossing. Personally I prefer the mix. Life in the city.
I see a mix when I go to Times Sq, I see black people in DTX. As much as I love lots of different people I still feel safer on Newbury St.

Now I'm not saying that mix is bad. I agree that DTX does offer things that other areas of the city doesn't. You do get a good mix but you also get a lower-income mix. Thats the demographic and thats why you don't see high end retailers fighting eachother to open stores there.

\/\/\/ Cars would be fine if the street wasn't so narrow.
 

lexicon506

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As long as they don't open it to cars, I'm happy. Talk about killing the atmosphere....
 

statler

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In the old forum ablarc made a pretty good argument FOR opening DTX up to cars. Something to the effect of how it would add to the life and activity of the area. I wasn't quite convinced but he did make a good case for the idea.
I wouldn't be too upset it they opened the area back up on a trial basis, just to see what impact it might have on the area.
 

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vanshnookenraggen said:
Seriously? You don't get this? Go to DTX and then go to Newbury St, the Pru, Faneuil Hall and tell me what you see. Whenever I went to DTX I saw many more lower class black people than I see at any other shopping area in the city.
So, different shopping areas cater to different market segments. What's wrong with that?
 

Ron Newman

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I don't see how cars could possibly benefit the area. Instead, the existing rules against cars should be enforced. Preferably by putting tables, planters, and other things in the middle of the road so that cars can't go there during shopping hours. If they want to open it up to cars after 11 pm I suppose that's OK.

Even police cars do not belong here. They should patrol it on foot or bicycle.
 

aws129

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Sadly, I think one of the primary reasons why DX is not perceived as an attractive/desirable location is the relatively large numbers of black and latino youths from the neighborhoods who like to hang out there. I feel like this is kind of the "elephant in the living room" of the whole revitalization discussion...I think older/white/middle class/yuppie people get intimidated by groups of teenagers -- especially if the kids are of color and sport "gangsta" style clothing. There's even a similar dynamic in the suburbs, where mall security discourages groups of teens from loitering in, say, foodcourts because they bother the older customers who actually spend.

Fortunately, I think DX can be improved without pushing out the youngsters -- honestly, they have as much right to be there as anyone. But it will require adding more businesses and new clienteles to the mix. Right now, the whole area is just DEAD after post-workday rush (at around seven or so). There are way too few restaurants, bars, cafes, and nightclubs that operate in the evening.

And -- as has been acknowledged here already -- the area needs a serious physical spiffing up. My personal preference would be to transform there area into an actual pedestrian mall (instead of the current half-hearted one) with attractive (maybe granite) hardscape and landscaping. And the pushcarts have got to go -- or at the very least rethought. My own opinion is that, in their current form, the pushcarts are ugly and sell crap.

Basically, DX needs to become a destination in its own right, not a place to quickly move through on the way to somewhere else.
 

vanshnookenraggen

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Ron Newman said:
vanshnookenraggen said:
Seriously? You don't get this? Go to DTX and then go to Newbury St, the Pru, Faneuil Hall and tell me what you see. Whenever I went to DTX I saw many more lower class black people than I see at any other shopping area in the city.
So, different shopping areas cater to different market segments. What's wrong with that?
Nothing, thats my point. But people seem to think that because DTX caters to a lower class that it needs to be changed to cater to an upper class.
 

Ron Newman

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And it doesn't. However, it also must not be allowed to run down due to commercial vacancies. If filling the vacancies requires some repositioning, then let's have repositioning.
 

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