City Hall Plaza Revamp | Government Center

statler

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A fresh coat of paint on an old jalopy. It still don't run but looks better on the front lawn.

Then again, I was completely wrong about the Greenway, so take that as you will.
 

Lrfox

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It doesn't fix the fundamental issues of an unenclosed square with no independent retail/bars/restaurants on the perimeter, but it's a definite improvement.
Right.

For me, the bar for "improvement" here is pretty low. If it's easier to walk from Cambridge St @ Sudbury St. over to Faneuil Hall or from Hanover St. up to Tremont St., I'll be happy. Regardless of the language in the press releases, it'll never be a great place to gather without activity generating spaces on the edges. But previously, it was even a challenge to just pass through. If it's no longer an obstacle, then I'll take it.
 

bigpicture7

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My photos (abridged set, sorry time limited) and a brief review (from 11/19):

chp_renv_1.jpg

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Some brief review notes:
  • This is an overall major improvement in many areas (nonetheless with several deficiencies as shared below)
  • First of all, this project is simply not done. As shown, there are numerous fenced-in areas still being worked on. On the one hand, after all this time I'm glad they finally reopened it to the public, but on the other hand, this was more of a soft opening than a "grand" reveal
  • My humble opinion: the Congress St. side is outstanding. The way they transformed that steep grade change into an accessible ramped + terraced landscape is a work of art and a triumph of public engagement when you consider the reopened city hall entrance, the overall accessibilty, the playground, the picnic area and the community space. This steeply sloping side was never going to be a "European Piazza" anyway, so they did the best that was possible here IMO
  • The Cambridge Street side / near the MBTA head house is another story. While it will improve when the trees mature further, it still feels windswept and you still feel the close proximity of the cars. It is still decidedly un-Euro Piazza. But, in fairness, the basic aesthetics have indeed improved considerably (better hardscaping, more texture, trees, etc), but that side still echos the old city hall plaza. I know, in part, this was due to the choice to leave a fairly expansive flat brick area for holding events, so there was a functional aspect to that choice.
  • The playground is great. My kid loved it. There's deceptively more there than meets the eye with all the climbing features. There are 3 slides at varying age/intensity levels. The main tube slide is insane: kids were shooting out the end at high velocity (but they made the end of it very close to the ground with a long flat area at the end, so it seems reasonably safe). To whomever was worried about skin burns in the sun: they've installed a large sun shade that covers most of it.
  • Sorry I don't have many photos of the Cambridge st. side (plus that's where some work was still going on).
  • In sum: my judgement (FWIW) is that this is indeed more than just "some new paint on a jalopy." It is now a substantively better public space that will serve more people and be more inviting. However, the area closest to the MBTA headhouse is still a notable weakness (expansive, windswept) that this renovation did not solve. IF they carry out substantial programming so that the space itself is often filled and active, then it seemingly can be better than what's perceived at this point in time (I hope they do).
 
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curcuas

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Just think of how many park improvements and greenways we could've funded throughout Boston if we didn't spend tens of millions on this and instead sold the plaza for high density residential development.
 

bigpicture7

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Just think of how many park improvements and greenways we could've funded throughout Boston if we didn't spend tens of millions on this and instead sold the plaza for high density residential development.
I'm with you in spirit, but did you not notice that about a year's worth of this project was ostensibly about repairing and waterproofing underground tunnels? There were points when I almost thought "renovating city hall plaza" was a front for a not-announced infrastructure project. Along those lines, there likely would have been challenges with filling the plaza with buildings (though I'm sure a corner here or there could work). And, also along those lines, I am not sure how many of the "tens of millions" were really not about the public-facing plaza design itself.
 

bakgwailo

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It doesn't fix the fundamental issues of an unenclosed square with no independent retail/bars/restaurants on the perimeter, but it's a definite improvement.

What's a bummer is that the fiarly cool, long slide will be closed down within a year b/c some dumb kid will hurt his/herself and ruin it for everyone else.
Yeah. Don't how why they just don't do something like:



Along the perimeter/throughout. Make them available to small time mom & pops, bonus points for a blanket beer/wine license to cover them. Be a great way to attract innovative ideas and food, too. Weight shouldn't affect the tunnels and what not, and they could be made reasonable air tight for the winter with basic high efficiency heat pumps. Probably even be able to make them easy to setup/tear down if there was an event or concert or something to make room for.
 

bakgwailo

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tall, interesting shape, not brown/beige/brick or glass. Would only happen in other cities.
So that's where Accordia got it's inspiration for it's Winthrop Square bid. Such a missed opportunity.
 

king_vibe

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The real culprits here are the JFK Building and the Center Plaza Building. Get ride of those landscrapers and replace them with half a dozen new buildings, and this might be a nice place to be.
 

curcuas

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I'm with you in spirit, but did you not notice that about a year's worth of this project was ostensibly about repairing and waterproofing underground tunnels? There were points when I almost thought "renovating city hall plaza" was a front for a not-announced infrastructure project. Along those lines, there likely would have been challenges with filling the plaza with buildings (though I'm sure a corner here or there could work). And, also along those lines, I am not sure how many of the "tens of millions" were really not about the public-facing plaza design itself.
Interesting!
 

TomOfBoston

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The real culprits here are the JFK Building and the Center Plaza Building. Get ride of those landscrapers and replace them with half a dozen new buildings, and this might be a nice place to be.
I always liked Center Plaza. JFK on the other hand needs to go.
 

TomOfBoston

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I wonder will the city maintain the features on the plaza or will they be trashed in a year or two like similar amenities?

When Northeastern paid to redo Carter field as a joint city/university amenity, they agreed to maintain it for 30 years, knowing that the city would not.
 

Life Coach Mike

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I wonder will the city maintain the features on the plaza or will they be trashed in a year or two like similar amenities?

When Northeastern paid to redo Carter field as a joint city/university amenity, they agreed to maintain it for 30 years, knowing that the city would not.
My concern exactly. I have to say that I'm worried about that tube slide re: liability, accidents, someone getting stuck. Nearly every fountain in the city has been defunct for long periods of time, some never returning online or not working properly (such as those on the Greenway in the North End). Nearly every open space downtown which has depended on non-private or corporate money has gone to the dogs, often for decades, until the city and state are forced to do major surgery. Now it's Boston Common's turn....how long will it take....how much will be maintained, other than what's located around the Brewer Fountain and Frog Pond?
 

DBM

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Nearly every fountain in the city has been defunct for long periods of time, some never returning online or not working properly (such as those on the Greenway in the North End).
Thus saving thousands of gallons of waters in terms of what has not been evaporated during the summer months otherwise spilled/seeped into the surrounding environment, plus any chronic subterranean leaks that might have occurred if those fountains were operating. Yes, running a fountain in our generally cool and rainy climate is not nearly as grotesque/obscene as running one in the desert Southwest... but then again, we've had three bad droughts in 7 years. So I sincerely put forth: how can anyone justify the symbolism of a fountain anymore?
 

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