The Beacon | 819 Beacon St. | Fenway

JumboBuc

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There has been some discussion of this lot on Beacon St over in the Children's IMP thread, but now that it has a real proposal on its own right I think it's time for its own thread.

Scape now has development rights, and their massive PDF Project Impact Report (349 pages, 169 mb) for 1252-1270 Boylston includes a rough proposal for this project. Working title is "The Beacon."

Since the 1252-1270 Boylston doc is so large, I've pulled the Beacon-specific info below.

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Consider me not a fan at all of the massing and lack of streetwall. Is all that green space necessary? I konw the GL tunnel runs through this site, but the building appears to largely be built on top of the right-of-way.

I like the change of use from office to residential, but other than that I don't think this plan is quite fully baked yet.
 

HarvardP

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^ There aren't any parks in the neighborhood, so a stretch of grass will be a nice addition IMO. That said, they should have reoriented the structure so the taller wing backs up to 829 Beacon and the park separates 819 Beacon and the new project beside the Pike.
 

HenryAlan

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The overall design is fine for what they are doing (and fills a need). But they need to turn it 90 degrees counter-clockwise so that Beacon St. gets a street wall. It may seem counter intuitive, but the green space is anti-pedestrian.
 

stick n move

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Agreed, or even just build a retail floor at ground level and move it up a floor so its off the ground. Either or, just no need for that right there. Im liking their overall plan tho for sure.
 

Massachoicetts

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It may just be me... But it looks office parky to me. Is this helping out the grid and is it well connected to the area? I could care less about the height, but the massing looks much better this round. My only fear is it will come off west endy.

Again, could totally be me.
 

HenryAlan

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I'm not worried that it will look West Endish. The overall surrounding urbanity should take care of that issue. But it's definitely less street side focused than it should be for that neighborhood. For too many years, this stretch of Beacon was painfully open and barren. Much of that is being fixed by One Kenmore, but 819 is the sole remaining stretch of open space on what is otherwise an urban boulevard. Why leave it that way in constructing this building?
 

meddlepal

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I hope the BCDC pushes on the street wall, but I suspect they won't because they're bad at using their leverage.

Housing good... suburban-esque planning... bad
 

ErnieAdams

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Where do we think this project "is"? I see them calling it Audubon Circle but I had trouble with that at first, even though the walkup building right next door to it and across that little private drive definitely belongs to Audubon Circle. Right now it's aggressively a non-place, but I associate the site more with the Fenway because of the gravitational pull of the ballpark on people who park there for events. I'll also grant that Audubon Circle is itself a part of Fenway/Kenmore for bureaucratic purposes, but I have a hard time picturing eventual residents of this building saying that they live in Audubon Circle. Feels even less likely for Fenway Center to be classified that way. When those two projects come online, do they maybe belong to some new sub-neighborhood altogether? Would the new CR station name of Lansdowne ever lend itself to defining the area stretching roughly from this site to the far end of Lansdowne St. itself, and covering (more or less) all of the immediate neighbors to the ballpark?

If we leave it up to the brokers it'll end up being called something atrocious and vaguely pharmaceutical like CloToFenPa (Close To Fenway Park), so it seems prudent to get in on the ground floor before the marketing teams do.
 

jass

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The overall design is fine for what they are doing (and fills a need). But they need to turn it 90 degrees counter-clockwise so that Beacon St. gets a street wall. It may seem counter intuitive, but the green space is anti-pedestrian.
Is this anti-pedestrian?


What about this?

 

JumboBuc

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Where do we think this project "is"? I see them calling it Audubon Circle but I had trouble with that at first, even though the walkup building right next door to it and across that little private drive definitely belongs to Audubon Circle. Right now it's aggressively a non-place, but I associate the site more with the Fenway because of the gravitational pull of the ballpark on people who park there for events. I'll also grant that Audubon Circle is itself a part of Fenway/Kenmore for bureaucratic purposes, but I have a hard time picturing eventual residents of this building saying that they live in Audubon Circle. Feels even less likely for Fenway Center to be classified that way. When those two projects come online, do they maybe belong to some new sub-neighborhood altogether? Would the new CR station name of Lansdowne ever lend itself to defining the area stretching roughly from this site to the far end of Lansdowne St. itself, and covering (more or less) all of the immediate neighbors to the ballpark?

If we leave it up to the brokers it'll end up being called something atrocious and vaguely pharmaceutical like CloToFenPa (Close To Fenway Park), so it seems prudent to get in on the ground floor before the marketing teams do.
I feel pretty comfortable saying that this is in the Fenway (or as people increasingly say, just "Fenway").

And, like you, I see Audobon Circle as a sub-area of the Fenway, so if some say it's in Audobon Circle it's still in the Fenway. A building on Blackstone Square is still in the South End. Plus, I feel like Audobon Circle's sense of place is fading (the circle itself is pretty much gone now), so in the future it'll be less of a thing.

For all the handwringing about portmanteau place names, that really isn't a thing in Boston. With the exception of SoWa, I can't think of any that have at all caught on here. That strikes me as more of a boogey-man than anything else. Current neighborhood marketing/branding seems to focus on harkening back to the past (see: Assembly Row, Ink Block). If the marketers tried that here they'd turn to, well, Fenway.

Is this anti-pedestrian?


What about this?

One can have this debate until the cows come home, but there's a pretty convincing body of evidence that shows that greenspace around buildings often worsens the pedestrian experience. Obviously green space can work well if designed well, but that is hard to pull off.
 

George_Apley

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Is this anti-pedestrian?


What about this?

That works for institutional buildings, which both of your examples are (or were). There generally wouldn't be any street activation from those sorts of buildings, therefore well-designed green-space enhances the walking experience. For residential or commercial, I say put the damn building against the street and activate it!
 

HenryAlan

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Is this anti-pedestrian?


What about this?

No to the first, yes to the second. There is a lot to assessing whether a green patch is anti-pedestrian, including in the final analysis, a splash of subjectivity. I would suggest that the main components involve scale and access.

Is it large but serves as a pedestrian cut through? If the answer is yes to first, but no to the second, then it's probably not pedestrian friendly. Examples of yes to both factors might include Blackstone Square or the Common, both of which are pro-pedestrian. If it is small but not offering utility to walkers, it becomes more subjective. Is it attractive? Is it available to the public (even though we might not have a reason to use it)? The old city hall is available to the public, even though we mostly just walk past it. The proposed park in this development is going to seem like something there just for the residents. To me, that's the real reason it is pedestrian unfriendly. It will function in a similar way to the pool deck at the Harbor Towers. There, but not for us, there but not accessible, there, but why should it be there?
 

FK4

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The overall design is fine for what they are doing (and fills a need). But they need to turn it 90 degrees counter-clockwise so that Beacon St. gets a street wall. It may seem counter intuitive, but the green space is anti-pedestrian.
I share your concern, but the park could still be a success (and not anti pedestrian) if this stretch of Beacon underwent a thoughtful redesign that included narrowing the lanes and most importantly, copious tree plantings and design elements to partially cordon off the road and sidewalk from the park (granite blocks, stone walls, statuary etc). It could still be done right. Yeah it won’t be as intimate as it could be but that’s a nice size for a park right here. I think the new park by the power plan on memorial is a decent success, even though it’s on the highway — but it has some very solid design elements that establish the park space as such in its own right. That also goes a long way.
 

HenryAlan

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The other thing that would help would be a pedestrian path running from the green space to the Brookline Ave. side of things. One of the few redeeming features of the parking lot is that it was a decent short cut for pedestrians. If the lot can continue to serve that purpose, then a path that skirts the park then feeds through/around the building to get to Fenway Park would be a great feature.
 

jass

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One can have this debate until the cows come home, but there's a pretty convincing body of evidence that shows that greenspace around buildings often worsens the pedestrian experience. Obviously green space can work well if designed well, but that is hard to pull off.
The same can be said about any building. A badly designed building can create a horrible pedestrian environment, no matter where it is located.
 

JumboBuc

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The same can be said about any building. A badly designed building can create a horrible pedestrian environment, no matter where it is located.
Oh come on. You know what, let's "say the same" about buildings:
One can have this debate until the cows come home, but there's a pretty convincing body of evidence that shows that buildings often worsen the pedestrian experience. Obviously buildings can work well if designed well, but that is hard to pull off.
Is this really your belief? I doubt it. And if it is, then that pretty much goes against the entire concept of cities and urbanism.

Just about everybody knows that badly designed buildings can be bad for pedestrians, but that is a very low bar. It would take a remarkably incompetent design team to put together a street-facing apartment building in this location in a way that would result in a bad pedestrian environment. And if a design team did manage to put together some plans like that for this location, you can be sure this forum would be pissed about it.

But when it comes to street-level activation for apartment building greenspace, it's almost the opposite. It is a much tougher task to design a pedestrian experience-enhancing private lawn in a dense urban environment than it is to design a pedestrian experience-enhancing street-facing building in the same spot.
 

Brad Plaid

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Not one inch of this building touches the lot line or the sidewalk. It is unfortunately reminiscent of Harvard's similarly too-suburban, grass lawned North Hall.
 

curcuas

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The overall design is fine for what they are doing (and fills a need). But they need to turn it 90 degrees counter-clockwise so that Beacon St. gets a street wall. It may seem counter intuitive, but the green space is anti-pedestrian.
Strongly agree. Beacon needs a streetwall given the Pike scar. Hide the Park away towards the back with an inviting entrance from Beacon and it will have a nice cloistered feel with Fenway Center going up (and adjoin other areas where the park could be used)
 

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