City Hall Plaza Revamp | Government Center

Mike

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Not the changes I would like to see but I think this will be a big improvement and a lot of people here will come around to liking the changes when it's finished ... kind of like what we've seen with the greenway. I don't see a render for the proposed fountain here but I think it will be a really nice addition assuming they can keep it up and running, unlike the last one.


Here it is



https://www.wbur.org/news/2019/06/04/photos-boston-city-hall-plaza-renovations
 

ngb_anim8

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Not the changes I would like to see but I think this will be a big improvement and a lot of people here will come around to liking the changes when it's finished ... kind of like what we've seen with the greenway. I don't see a render for the proposed fountain here but I think it will be a really nice addition assuming they can keep it up and running, unlike the last one.
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Could the water feature on the left be the proposed "fountain"? It looks like a cascade... sort of reminds me of the north end parks.
 

Bananarama

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I'm of the few who truly like City Hall as a piece of architecture. Like many buildings from its time though, the urban design is a disaster and typical government-pace/budget upkeep is virtually nonexistent.

So this project is a big win in my book. Soften the edges with trees, scale down the no-man's land, make it more accessible, etc. Give it another 50 years and the canopies might fill out and you'll have a nicer urban park. I think if a few small restaurants and food stalls (Long Wharf style) were sprinkled along the main plaza and promenade, it would attract more use.

Sure, there's way too much damn set-back around most of the plots on this block and a street grid rework would be nice. But I'll take what we can get.
 

Charlie_mta

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The phrase "lipstick on a pig" comes to mind. Cosmetic changes to a train wreck will make it look slightly more palatable, but it's still a train wreck sitting right in the middle of everything. The only real solution is to do away with the Plaza and replace it with a system of small streets, traditionally-sized blocks, urban density, and pocket parks.
 

TomOfBoston

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The phrase "lipstick on a pig" comes to mind. Cosmetic changes to a train wreck will make it look slightly more palatable, but it's still a train wreck sitting right in the middle of everything. The only real solution is to do away with the Plaza and replace it with a system of small streets, traditionally-sized blocks, urban density, and pocket parks.
When first proposed circa 1960 City Hall Plaza was seen as a wonderful addition to Boston. Like most European cities Boston was densely packed but European cities had at least one big open plaza. City Hall Plaza was to be a breath of air in dense Boston and the site of festivals and celebrations. This would lessen the wear and tear on the Boston Common.

Of course it was a monumental failure due to the buildings built around the plaza. A planned hotel near Haymarket Square never materialized and the JFK Federal Building, especially the low rise wing, was a barrier to any street life.
 

meddlepal

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When first proposed circa 1960 City Hall Plaza was seen as a wonderful addition to Boston. Like most European cities Boston was densely packed but European cities had at least one big open plaza. City Hall Plaza was to be a breath of air in dense Boston and the site of festivals and celebrations. This would lessen the wear and tear on the Boston Common.

Of course it was a monumental failure due to the buildings built around the plaza. A planned hotel near Haymarket Square never materialized and the JFK Federal Building, especially the low rise wing, was a barrier to any street life.
There's also the problem of winter which is is 4-6 month activity outdoor activity killer for plaza's.
 

Suffolk 83

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All the rah rah pro development people here know that once it becomes a park it will most likley never get developed in the next 150 years right?
 
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HelloBostonHi

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All the rah rah pro development people here know that once it becomes a park it will most likley never get developed in the next 150 years right?
It was never going to be developed, park or not, let's be realistic. It's now public land, it's been long used for protests and events, any attempt to develop it would be political suicide that neither the city nor the BPDA would get behind. A park is the best option now.
 

chrisbrat

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piazza navona, plaza mayor, plaza de espana -- all the wonderfullly successful plazas that boston city hall plaza was *supposedly* inspired by in the first place are 1) enclosed; 2) enclosed by cafes, shops, restaurants, clubs. if the three borders (unfortunately one is "taken" by city hall, itself) were similarly occupied by such retail- and consumer-friendly businesses then this area would be a home-run, regardless of trees or fountains. unfortunately, on the four sides you have: 1) city hall; 2) jfk low-rise; 3) two unblocked streetfronts. until/unless they allow construction of (relatively) low-rise businesses AT LEAST on the cambridge street side (and ideally in front of the jfk federal building, facing the plaza, as well as congress street on the north side) it will never be successful. it's a pretty simple solution and it's kind of baffling how nobody with the power to move these types of decisions has figured that shit out by now.
 
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Charlie_mta

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^ I agree with you and George. I would also extend Hanover Street from the North End to Cambridge Street, take out the low-rise portion of JFK building (per George Apley) and replace it with a new high-rise and some pedestrian-friendly low-rise mixed-use buildings. And as said above by Chrisbrat, enclose the Plaza on 3 sides with low-rise. I would want retail on the ground floor and residential/office on the upper floors, punctuated with wide openings to Hanover and Cambridge Streets. City Hall could stay in place (ouch!) but modified to replace its brick wall behemoths abutting the Plaza with an open inclusive structure containing shops, etc.
 

stevemus

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Public opinion always lags in matters of architectural taste: 30 years is too old to be considered new but too new to be considered old. In other words, it’s out of fashion. But the 50-year mark is the sweet spot when people come around to a style and our 50th for Boston City Hall was 2019.

One of the architects, Michael McKinnell, passed away recently from Covid complications and it was fascinating to read in his tribute about what they were trying to accomplish with this site.

Brutalism/Heroic style is a uniquely American architectural style and must be preserved (I do see the Le Corbusier influences). Heroic architects had a real sense of optimism and democracy. Boston City Hall was designed as a huge, open and grand public space. It doesn't work like that any more but that was the idea. “The whole thing was conceived with that sense of openness and aspiration to be very public, to be grand, to represent the civic realm.” The plaza too was meant to be non-directional, as opposed to a formal garden, because in a democracy you don't tell people where to go.

I can't stop thinking of the similarities with Philadelphia City Hall: one of the most beautiful buildings in the country if you're a fan of the Second Empire Style. The largest all-masonry civic building in the world and 250 Alexander Milne Calder sculptures adorn the exterior! After 30 years of construction however, by the time it was completed in 1901 the style was out of favor. In 1950 the city determined that the cost of demolition would have bankrupt the city and just 5 years ago the West plaza renovation was completed.

Love it or hate it; "If they tear down Boston City Hall and replace it with a glass box, because that's all we can afford today, no one will ever talk about Boston City Hall again."
 
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citydweller

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Public opinion always lags in matters of architectural taste: 30 years is too old to be considered new but too new to be considered old. In other words, it’s out of fashion. But the 50-year mark is the sweet spot when people come around to a style and our 50th for Boston City Hall was 2019.

Brutalism/Heroic style is a uniquely American architectural style and must be preserved ...
Uniquely American? hardly.
 

Lrfox

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Copy writing and content management is a big part of my job, so this stuff really jumps out at me: "Nestled into the grade between Congress Street and the U.S. General Serves Administration terrace above."

But grammar policing aside, I'm not going to write this off as "lipstick on a pig." I think it'll be a drastic improvement. One of the biggest issues with the plaza as-is is the lack of intuitive ways to traverse the space. The south side is fairly active year round because it's activated, and there are natural routes for pedestrians to take. In theory, Hanover St. should be a natural entry point into the plaza, but between the nothingness on either side of the plaza entrance, the sea of brick, the lengthy steps, and nothing indicating a clear connection to Cambridge St., it's useless. It actively deters pedestrians from entering the plaza from that direction. The Cambridge St. access is similarly useless. The stars lead pedestrians down to a large obstacle (the old fountain wall) they have to navigate.

The plan seems to address most of these issues. The entire thing gently slopes downward from Cambridge St. toward Congress. It's activated with a playground (which will be used), they're reopening and improving the North Entrance to City Hall, and they're planting the space for aesthetic improvement. I imagine it'll be much more active. The one improvement the city cant' make themselves is the GSA low rise. If that is ever available for redevelopment, the plaza has the potential to transition from functional urban space to destination. Plus, I'm hopeful that the city will nail down ways to better activate it year round. The seasonal attractions were a good start, but the winter market, beer gardens, etc. can all be improved.
 

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