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Comments on ENF for 33-61 Temple Street, Beacon Hill

Comments on ENF for 33-61 Temple Street, Beacon Hill

May 31, 2016

Christopher Tracy
Boston Redevelopment Authority
Boston City Hall
1 City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201

Re: Expanded Project Notification Form for 33‐61 Temple Street, Beacon Hill

Dear Mr. Tracy,

WalkBoston appreciates the opportunity to comment on the Expanded Project Notification Form for 33-61 Temple Street in Beacon Hill. We are commenting because of concern about pedestrian issues associated with this project.

We appreciate that the project will add residential units that meet ADA standards for accessible buildings. We also agree that replacing the non-conforming academic use of the structures will improve the neighborhood by reducing street activities related to the arrival and departure of students. We anticipate that the new residents will enjoy the environmental benefits of the shared street that services their building.

In addition, replacing the façade of the more modern Donahue Building will clearly benefit the historic appearance of the Beacon Hill neighborhood and mesh the project more closely with the architecturally­‐significant structures that surround it. Wind and shadow impacts appear to be minimal.

This proposal capitalizes on a very centrally‐located site. The existing buildings to be redeveloped are located at the edge of historic Beacon Hill, across the street from the Massachusetts State House, and just a few minutes walking distance from the center of downtown Boston. The area is well-­served by public transportation – indeed, stations on all four of the MBTA’s subway lines are within a walking distance of 10‐15 minutes. Six bus lines are nearby. As a result, many future residents will be able to commute to work and walk to many neighborhood destinations without the need for public transportation or motor vehicles.

Notwithstanding the transit-­served and walkable setting of the site, the project is quite auto-­centric. In a densely built downtown neighborhood that is one of the premier walking neighborhoods in the United States, the project proposes adding 60 parking spaces for the proposed 75 units in the two buildings. As a result of this project, 60 parking spaces will be added to a street where there are none at all at present. These parked vehicles will require access via Temple Street, which was formally designated a pedestrian street in 1970 by Mayor Kevin White and Governor Michael Dukakis, with an added designation as Temple Walk in 1977. Since its designation as a pedestrian street, parking on the street has been removed, sidewalks have been widened, alternating sides of the street have a flush curb between the sidewalk and roadway. Landscaping has been added, and residents have enjoyed the environmental benefits of a prescient plan for what is now called a shared street. On shared streets, pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles all have equal rights to the street space. Vehicles must proceed slowly, parking is nonexistent or very limited, and walking or biking on the street is very pleasurable and deemed to be safe for all.

WalkBoston recommends significantly reducing the number of on-­site parking spaces
The principal concern is that the addition of these spaces will tip the current carefully balanced pedestrian-­vehicle use of the street and make the space less pleasant for walkers. On-­site parking is an expectation that has been challenged successfully elsewhere in the city and should be challenged here.

WalkBoston suggests that the planned number of parking spaces should be reduced. Several options should be explored:

Eliminate all parking within the building. The development of Lovejoy Wharf in the North End of downtown Boston pioneered the elimination of on-­site parking for residential development with close and excellent mass transit and with nearby garages for off-­site parking.

Reduce the presumed demand for parking by reducing the number of residential units in the building or simply reduce the ratio of parking spaces/unit.

Improve services for residents and thus reduce any residual demand for vehicles. An extensive row of bicycle racks are proposed for the building and bike-­sharing appears to be a real possibility. Car-­sharing providers such as Zipcar or Enterprise Rent-­A-­Car space should be included within the garage.

Work with the owners of nearby garages to arrange for the rental or purchase of parking spaces for those residents who determine that they need to own a car.

Thank you for your consideration of our comments.

Sincerely,

Robert Sloane
Senior Planner

 

 

 

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