What to do about Government Center

Charlie_mta

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This project area could be enlarged a bit by shifting New Sudbury Street toward the Federal Building as shown in this rendering. The purple dashed lines are the existing street, and the solid red is the realigned, narrowed street. Yellow lines represent developable blocks. The proposed project could be broken up into smaller blocks as shown, with a narrow street or pedestrian alley bisecting the site longitudinally. The resultant array of narrow streets and smaller blocks would give a more urban feel, eliminate the wasted area along the nw side of the Federal Building, and would still allow sizeable, tall buildings to be developed.

Congress Street should also be narrowed as shown, and vacant land adjoining the proposed project developed, to create a dense fabric of small streets, pedestrian allys and buildings, fully integrated with the surrounding area.

 

ablarc

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Re: Gov't Center Garage Redevelopment

^ Good job, Charlie. Your thoughts are always interesting. Boston was better the way you remember it, and I'm glad you recall its nature well enough to recreate it. If you had gone to architecture school, there's a good chance they would have lobotomized you with minimum standards, service areas and other mundane considerations that guarantee urbanity's defeat.
 

Charlie_mta

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Re: Gov't Center Garage Redevelopment

Thanks. I'm a registered professional civil engineer, now a project manager in an engineering office. I was a designer until a few years ago and did a lot of design work in National Parks, much of it landscape architecture type work.

I somewhat wanted to be an architect when I was a kid, but was always interested in civil engineering. I've followed Boston urban renewal and transportation designs closely since the mid 1960's.
 

KentXie

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Re: Gov't Center Garage Redevelopment

I'm most likely wrong but judging from some of the traffics I see around rush hour in this area, I think you are under-estimating the impacts of narrowing the streets, especially Congress Street. Any narrowing of that street will instantly create large traffic jams in that area. The creation of new streets and intersections will also spawn new traffic stoplights which may be beneficial in slowing down traffic and preventing high-way like speed but will increase traffic dramatically.
 

czsz

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Re: Gov't Center Garage Redevelopment

I think studies have found that traffic tends to redistribute itself quite well in such situations.

The real problem would be the feds freaking about anything getting closer to their building than it is now - particularly vehicular traffic.
 

Charlie_mta

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Re: Gov't Center Garage Redevelopment

A denser network of narrower streets (with smaller blocks) would have similar capacity to the current network of wide streets and super blocks. If Hanover Street were extended to Cambridge Street, that would divert some traffic from New Sudbury Street. New Congress Street could easily be narrowed from 6 to 4 lanes, due to the added capacity in the parallel RKG surface roadway.

Besides, do we want a dense, transit and pedestrian oriented downtown, or a dispersed, automobile oriented one?
 

PaulC

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Re: Gov't Center Garage Redevelopment

It could have been a Sunday, though. Back then nothing was open on Sundays, so there wasn't much reason to be driving around.
Even if it is Sunday the North End should at least be busy.
 

Ron Newman

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Re: Gov't Center Garage Redevelopment

Congress Street is only two lanes south of State Street, so I see no need for it to be wider north of State.
 

underground

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Re: Gov't Center Garage Redevelopment

I walk to and from Haymarket Station during rush hour during the work week. Traffic is rarely an issue here.
 

JohnAKeith

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Re: Gov't Center Garage Redevelopment

I like the redesign, a lot. Shows how can increase density while also improving traffic and pedestrian flow.

A couple things I see:

* I don't think it's possible to build in front of the Trial Court House. It's too small a piece of land. (This is the triangle across the street from the Mobil gas station.)

* I think the Feds would forbid anything from being built next to the high-rise and low-rise JFK building. I think Leventhal etc. suggested it back when the Mayor floated the idea of putting Hanover Street back in place and the initial response was negative.

* Should a realigned New Sudbury Street be two-way traffic? New Chardon, as well?

* Why do you include the land / building across from the old Bell building on Cambridge Street? Is this next to Bowdoin Place or in front of it? What's there now, I can't place it.

* If you bring back roads between Center Plaza and Congress Street, they will have to be given their "original" names (Court Street and Brattle Street) or I won't buy into it.

* The argument against building anything of substance over the MBTA blue and green lines over City Hall Plaza has always been that the ceilings can't support it. Well, I think if we built the Big Dig, we can figure out a way to reinforce the ceilings so that they can, no?
 

KentXie

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Re: Gov't Center Garage Redevelopment

^^Don't think the MBTA nor the state can afford it.
 

czsz

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Re: Gov't Center Garage Redevelopment

Huh? Weren't those tunnels there well before Government Center?
 

Ron Newman

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Re: Gov't Center Garage Redevelopment

I believe that the Government Center project resulted in some changes to the underground Green Line tunnels. For instance, a station called Adams Square was abandoned.
 

Chessplayer

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Re: Gov't Center Garage Redevelopment

Re: Charlie

I'd question the complete elimination of City Hall Plaza. Some public space should remain there.
 

castevens

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Re: Gov't Center Garage Redevelopment

I'd question any public space remaining at City Hall Plaza. No evidence of its existence should remain.
 

vanshnookenraggen

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Re: Gov't Center Garage Redevelopment

Re: Charlie

I'd question the complete elimination of City Hall Plaza. Some public space should remain there.
I second this, but now we are pushing the conversation away from these buildings so I am going to cut these posts off into a new thread in the Design A Better Boston forum.
 

Charlie_mta

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The Green Line tunnels under City Hall Plaza would not present an obstacle to developing buildings and streets there. The western (inbound) tunnel is the original tunnel existing since the early 1900's, located along the former Hanover Street alignment. The eastern (outbound) tunnel was built in the late 1960's as part of the GC construction. Also, the loop tunnel for light rail cars to turn around just north of GC station was built then.

The roofs of the tunnels could easily be reinforced as needed to support buildings and streets. The tunnels are two track (the loop tunnel in one track). They are narrow tunnels, nothing like the 4 and 5 lane Central Artery tunnels. There would also be plenty of vertical clearance available to build an additional reinforced slab of the tunnel ceiling, due to the huge size of the Plaza that would be redeveloped. You could raise the elevation of the ground 2 feet across the Plaza, to allow for ceiling reinforcement of the tunnels, and it wouldn't even be noticeable.


As for the Federal Building, redevelopment of the area and realigning of streets should not be constrained by security needs. If that level of security is required, then the City should pay for the Federal agencies to move to a more secure location.
 

kennedy

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Federal agencies should pay to move to a more secure location. If it were up to me, all federal offices in the city would be moved to one secure complex, added on to the Reserve.
 

Charlie_mta

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Good idea. In any case, it's crazy to have a fortress (the Federal Building) in the middle of the city requiring sizable buffer zones around it. Same goes for the O'Neil Building next to North Station. Get rid of these eyesores and put in some decent buildings and narrow streets that would fit the urban landscape of the city center.
 

czsz

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Hundreds, maybe thousands of people a day rely on services in these buildings, and hundreds more work there. Most are poor people in need of government services (or poorly paid government employees), so it does make some sense that they're in the city centre, where there is easy transit access.

Plus, I have to say, I'd feel sorry for the workers' welfare if the federal buildings were relocated away from downtown. The cafeteria in JFK is drab/awful enough. When I worked in the building, I ate there once and balked at ever doing so again (it is kinda cool that there are snack bars on random levels of the building, though).
 

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