I feel like this is the case for SO much of Boston. Empty streets and sidewalks.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.
The beer garden on the south eastern side was a nice influx of retail that activated that side of the plaza a bit. More of that kind of retail/cafe/bar would go a long way to enhance the plaza. In general, I find Boston's streets and sidewalks are pretty good for activation compared to other US cities, but fall far behind European and Asian examples for sheer people activation. However, our culture is different in regards to public spaces. We spend more money on our individual homes and yards, while other countries spend money on public spaces that benefit everyone.I feel like this is the case for SO much of Boston. Empty streets and sidewalks.