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Tag: fenway-kenmore

Comment Letter on Kenmore Hotel Project (560-574 Commonwealth Avenue)

Comment Letter on Kenmore Hotel Project (560-574 Commonwealth Avenue)

June 27, 2019

Brian Golden, Director
Boston Redevelopment Authority
Attn: Tim Czerwienski
One City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201-1007

Re: Kenmore Hotel, 560-574 Commonwealth Avenue, WalkBoston Comments

Dear Director Golden:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Kenmore Hotel Project.

WalkBoston believes that the re-configuration of Kenmore Square proposed by the proponent will significantly enhance the environment and improve the safety and convenience of people walking to and through Kenmore Square. It will also create new pedestrian-focused civic space that is presently missing from this important Boston crossroads – where many residents, transit users, students, Red Sox fans and Boston Marathon fans will find new space to enhance their experience of Kenmore Square.

We believe that the re-configuration will also significantly improve the safety of bicyclists and drivers, with its simplified pattern of movement. Based on the traffic analysis provided in the DPIR it also appears that the new traffic pattern will improve the levels of service for vehicles, potentially providing a benefit for the many bus riders who pass through the Square each day.

We are very pleased that the proponent has proposed building a hotel without on-site parking or below-grade service access – either of which would require a curb cut interrupting the sidewalk. With Kenmore Square’s good transit access the hotel will truly reflect an urbanist vision for the City which we applaud. While we have not reviewed any financial information about the project, we wonder whether the decision to forgo the construction of parking spaces (@ approximately $25,000 – $30,000/space) has provided the proponent with the financial capacity to build the extensive plaza and streetscape improvements that are proposed. If this is the case, we hope that future Boston development projects will be encouraged by the City to take advantage of this opportunity.

We urge the City to work with the proponent to bring this new vision for Kenmore Square to fruition.

We have several questions and comments about the project that we urge the City to work with the proponent to address.

  1. The new, much safer, bicycle circulation system is an important improvement for Kenmore Square. We urge the design team to carefully design the western edge of the site to actively discourage eastbound cyclists on Commonwealth Avenue from riding through the plaza area rather than taking the New Road-Beacon Street-Commonwealth Avenue bike route that is the intended route.
  2. Based on the wind study results presented at the June 19 public meeting, several spots on the plaza may be quite windy. We urge the proponent to develop designs that both reduce the wind and avoid the use of walls along Commonwealth Avenue. We believe that walls will serve to privatize the feel of the space and may also cause unintended noise impacts (wooshing sounds) as traffic passes by the intermittent walls.
  3. We hope that the plaza will include seating that has a softer feel than that which seems to be illustrated to date – seating that invites people to linger and enjoy the great people-watching.
  4. For how many years has the proponent committed to maintaining and programming the Plaza?
  5. It appears from the site plan that there are two left turn lanes from westbound Commonwealth Avenue feeding into one receiving lane on Brookline Avenue – is this intended, or is the site plan incorrect? In addition, westbound Commonwealth Avenue traffic will need very clear lane markings (and perhaps a tweaking of the shape of the nose of the plaza) to ensure that traffic does not mistakenly head westbound on Beacon Street.

We look forward to a significantly improved walking experience in Kenmore Square when the project is realized.

Please let us know if you have any questions about our comments.

Best regards,

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Comment Letter: Tremont Crossing Draft Environmental Impact Report MEPA #14900

Comment Letter: Tremont Crossing Draft Environmental Impact Report MEPA #14900

November 23, 2016

Matthew Beaton, Secretary
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Attn: MEPA Office
Analyst: Erin Flaherty
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

RE: Tremont Crossing Draft Environmental Impact Report  MEPA #14900

Dear Mr. Beaton,

WalkBoston has reviewed the DEIR for the Tremont Crossing proposal in Roxbury. We believe that the very auto-oriented proposed development is inconsistent with the urban character of the neighborhood and needs to be substantially modified to benefit its neighbors.

Parking Spaces Proposed are Excessive
The development calls for a multi-level parking garage of 1,371 spaces that will generate 8,000 vehicle trips per day.  WalkBoston questions the need for such a large garage given that the development will be less than two blocks from Roxbury Crossing and Ruggles Transit Stations, and within a 10-minute walk of Dudley Square that is served by twenty bus lines.

By comparison the two large Target Stores in the Fenway (Boston) and Cambridge have only a couple of hundred parking spaces.  Numerous parking studies of big box stores and shopping malls throughout the country have shown that parking lots/garages are underutilized.

The emphasis on parking and downplaying of the use of transit suggests an imbalance for so large a project in the heart of the city.   As stated in the 2012 comment letter from Boston Transportation Department a consistent supply of available parking will counteract efforts to encourage alternative travel modes.

Tremont Street Should Not Be Widened
To accommodate the large number of vehicles accessing and exiting the proposed development Tremont Street is projected to be widened to eight or nine lanes.  Such a wide roadway at this location is incompatible with the urban character of the street and will create safety hazards to the pedestrians and bicyclists moving to and from the transit services, residences and institutions.

Also, the environmental review should include an assessment of the impact of increased traffic on the busway at Ruggles.  Numerous buses leave Ruggles headed for Dudley and WalkBoston has concern that at peak hours buses will be waiting through numerous traffic signal cycles to exit unto Ruggles Street.  The result could be a backlog of congestion from Ruggles to Malcolm X Boulevard.

Roxbury Crossing Development Should be Integrated into the Neighborhood
As currently designed, the development will be an island, separated from its neighborhood setting.  The proposed development has the opportunity to contribute to the street by creating easy walking access from the transit stations as well as nearby residential developments (Madison Park and Whittier Housing) and institutions (Northeastern University).  The Tremont Street Development is located in an area where Transit Oriented Development is particularly appropriate.

Proposed Project Could Acknowledge Changing Retail
The retail environment has changed since the project was proposed 4 – 5 years ago.  More and more shopping is done on line and traditional walk-in retail is struggling.  Evidence of this is in Dudley Square, the heart of Roxbury.  WalkBoston would like to see the City devote greater efforts to supporting viable retail in Dudley.  Promoting retail within a 10-minute walk of Dudley will only further depress the market for shops in Dudley Square.  However even within the proposed development the liveliness of the retail is questionable given that the proposed network of bridges will connect the garage on the second floor, discouraging patronage of the ground level retail.

Ensure Safety of Major Pedestrian Crossings.
The major pedestrian crossings of Tremont Street will take place at intersections with Ruggles/Whittier Street, South Drive and Prentiss Street. The primary crossing is likely to be at Ruggles/Whittier Street, because of the direct access it provides to the Ruggles MBTA Station. Care should be taken to provide for significant numbers of people wanting to cross Tremont Street at this location. Retention of the median strip in the center of Tremont Street would be useful as a refuge for pedestrians who may not be able to cross the entire width of a widened Tremont Street in one signal cycle. Similarly, leading pedestrian signal intervals should be incorporated to facilitate safe pedestrian crossings at the intersection. Analysis should also be undertaken to determine if a crosswalk is truly needed at South Drive, in view of the nearby Prentiss Street crossing.

Thank you for the opportunity to review this proposal. Please feel free to contact us with questions you may have, and we look forward to hearing how our suggestions are incorporated into subsequent revisions to this plan.

Sincerely,

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Dorothea Hass
Sr. Project Manager

cc: Councilor Tito Jackson
Byron Rushing, State Representative
Deirdre Buckley, MEPA Director
Dana Whiteside, Boston Planning and Development Agency
Kay Matthews, Friends of Melnea Cass Boulevard (FMCB)
Marah Holland, FMCB
Alison Pultinas, FMCB

 

Comment Letter: A proposal for the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge

Comment Letter: A proposal for the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge

September 19, 2016

Mayor Martin Walsh, Boston
Mayor Denise Simmons, Cambridge
Stephanie Pollack, Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation
Tom Tinlin, Massachusetts Highway Administrator
Leo Roy, Massachusetts Commissioner, Department of Conservation and Recreation
Monica Bharel, Massachusetts Commissioner, Department of Public Health

Re: A proposal for the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge

Dear Friends:

Boston and Cambridge have declared themselves Vision Zero cities. The Healthy Transportation Compact has united our state agencies in concerted efforts to increase active transportation and improve safety for walking and bicycling.

DCR is on track to add a new Charlesgate Path and a signalized pedestrian/bike crossing of the Mass Ave Bridge to connect the Esplanade with the Back Bay/Kenmore neighborhoods (the crosswalk will be located where the Mass Ave. Bridge crosses the open space between inbound and outbound Storrow Drive). The new Charlesgate path, and the enhanced connection between the Esplanade and Charlesgate via the new crosswalk will generate significant new use by people walking and biking.

These are wonderful developments for people from across Massachusetts and the world who commute, amble and sightsee on the Esplanade, along Memorial Drive, and across the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge! And, they are all leading to more people on foot and bike on the bridge.

As we see the increase in people walking and biking, the lack of safe biking accommodation on the Mass Ave Bridge is leading to large numbers of bicycles on the sidewalks of the Bridge – an unsafe and uncomfortable situation.

We ask that MassDOT, DCR, Boston and Cambridge explore the re-purposing one of the outbound Mass Ave Bridge vehicle travel lanes to provide space for a protected bike lane on each side of the bridge, with access provided from the Esplanade and Charlesgate paths that will connect to the Bridge.

Based on a very preliminary look at the traffic volumes and lane use on the Bridge, we believe that improving the network by adding low-stress, protected bicycle lanes could be accomplished without significant impacts to vehicle operations. Providing protected bike lanes will both improve the safety of people on bikes and improve the safety of pedestrians by removing bicycles from the Bridge sidewalks.

We look forward to working with you and your staff to explore this suggestion.

Best regards,

Wendy Landman, Executive Director, WalkBoston
Tani Marinovich, Executive Director, The Esplanade Association

Cc Senator Will Brownsberger
Senator Joseph A. Boncore
Representative Jay Livingstone
Chris Osgood, Chief of Streets, City of Boston
Gina Fiandaca, Boston Commissioner of Transportation
Joe Barr, Director of Traffic, Parking, and Transportation, City of Cambridge
Becca Wolfson, Executive Director, Boston Cyclists Union
Stacy Thompson, Executive Director, LivableStreets Alliance
Richard Fries, Executive Director, MassBike
Herb Nolan, Solomon Fund
Renata von Tscharner, Charles River Conservancy
Peter Furth, Northeastern University
Suzanne Walmsley, Boston Athletic Association

Comments on the Single Environmental Impact Report for the Landmark Center Redevelopment MEPA# 15183

Comments on the Single Environmental Impact Report for the Landmark Center Redevelopment MEPA# 15183

August 8, 2014

Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA)
Attn: Purvi Patel
100 Cambridge St., Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

RE: Comments on the Single Environmental Impact Report for the Landmark Center Redevelopment MEPA# 15183

Dear Secretary Vallely Bartlett:

For large development projects around the state, WalkBoston provides a review of proposed pedestrian facilities and provide comments that suggest ways to help improve pedestrian conditions and/or mitigate negative impacts on pedestrians.

WalkBoston has reviewed the Single Environmental Impact Report for the Landmark Center Redevelopment. The project is designed to intensify the use of the property by relocating existing parking underground, and constructing 600 residential units, 185,000 sq ft of retail space, and 15,000 sq ft of office space. The existing Landmark building is preserved and circulation is upgraded on the retail level. Public open space will be augmented, and additional paths for pedestrians provided.

The project holds many positive improvements for pedestrians. The new connections between the MBTA station and the neighborhood, both inside and outside of the building are well done and very desirable. The new park at the corner of Park Drive and Brookline Avenue will provide a gathering spot and a “green” that will have multiple uses for people-watching or as an entertainment venue.

We have some suggestions that may improve facilities for pedestrians:

• The proponent might consider extending the weather-protected portion of the walking route along the new building frontage between the existing Landmark building and the north side of the property, including both the MBTA station and the multi-purpose path. Weather protection could be provided either inside the new building, as an extension of the interior network of pathways or by a canopy that would provide some protection for walkers across this small portion of the site.

• On page 1-7 the report cites the “….vibrant streetscape along Park Drive, Brookline Avenue, and Fullerton Street.” These three sides of the project warrant such attention. But the north side of the property, where the multi-use path is proposed to be located, has not been provided with attractive treatments. The walls and landscaping along this path be provided with amenities to make it more vibrant and attractive to walkers. For example, murals could be added on the adjacent walls.

• The proposed design for Fullerton Street is confusing. A connection for pedestrians is provided via Fullerton and Miner Street to reach Beacon Street from the development, but the extensive truck use of Fullerton Street may make this connection uncomfortable for pedestrians. The proposal to increase the corner radii at the intersection of Brookline Avenue/Kilmarnock Street/Fullerton Street should be carefully reviewed for its potential safety impacts on walkers.

There is an important pedestrian safety issue that we hope the proponent of the project will undertake – improving pedestrian access across Park Drive at the top of the bridge where bus stops and the stairs to the Green Line are located. Two different improvements should be implemented.

1. By using the underground passageway adjacent to the MBTA D Line station, a pathway along the MBTA right-of-way through the Fenway Station would connect the Riverway portion of the Emerald Necklace to the multi-use path leading to Kenmore Square. This would enhance safety for pedestrians who want to walk between these two off-street paths.

2. An improved pedestrian crossing of Park Drive is needed at the top of the hill where the bus stops and access to the stairs to the Green Line are located. There is currently no crosswalk or signal at this location, and the hill reduces the visibility of pedestrians. As the location of a busy transit connection serving both Green Line and bus riders, this location warrants a careful study to develop safe crosswalks perhaps including a pedestrian activated signal or other high-visibility markings.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important project.

Sincerely,

Robert Sloane
Senior Planner

Cc: Jack Murray, Commissioner, DCR
Jim Gillooly, Interim Commissioner, Boston Transportation Department

 

Comments on DCR Back Bay Fens Crosswalk Improvements

Comments on DCR Back Bay Fens Crosswalk Improvements

March 12, 2014

Commissioner Jack Murray
Department of Conservation and Recreation
251 Causeway Street, Suite 600
Boston, MA 02114

Attn: Office of Public Outreach

Dear Commissioner Murray:

WalkBoston has reviewed the DCR’s Back Bay Fens Crosswalk Improvements presentation and attended the public meeting held earlier this month. We are very pleased that DCR will undertake improvements for pedestrian safety.

We offer several detailed comments on the intersection of the Fenway and Forsyth Way and the Fenway and the Fenway Service Road from Forsyth Way.

Comments on the options proposed for the intersection of the Fenway and Forsyth Way
• At this intersection, a raised crosswalk is by far the most attractive proposed improvement. Raised crosswalks never fail to slow traffic, and can be designed to have modest impacts on street drainage facilities. A raised crosswalk at this location would have the effect of slowing Fenway traffic through both of the Fenway intersections that
are to be improved.
• A clearly marked ‘stop’ line should be installed on the pavement far enough in advance of the crosswalk to allow motorists and pedestrians to see each other and pass safely through the crossing. This is very important to reduce the risk of a car in the right or left lane stopping for a pedestrian and a car in the adjacent lane continuing through the
crosswalk (the so called ‘double threat” situation).
• Warning signs alerting motorists that pedestrians and bicycles will be crossing should be added on either side of the roadway, together with arrows indicating the exact location of the crossings. The warning sign proposed for the median of the Fenway will also advise drivers of the precise location of the pedestrian crossing.
• In addition to the warning signs, we think the proposed pair of Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons attached to the warning signs on each side of the road is appropriate. They are highly visible and not easily ignored. A Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon is another option to warn drivers of pedestrian street crossings, but, as it would partially bridge the street with several signal heads, it would be intrusive in the green expanses of the Fenway and no more effective than the Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon.
• The new sidewalk that is proposed for the east side of the Fenway is important for pedestrian safety and should be included in all options.
• Tighter corner radii will help to slow turning vehicles as they exits the Fenway onto Forsyth Way. At a minimum, paint or bollards should be used to tighten the curve.

Possible significant change to the intersection of the Fenway and Forsyth Way
The design presented as Alternative 3 attempts to respond to the walking desire lines that exist at this intersection. However, the alignment of the crosswalk passing through the traffic island seems quite complex and unusually situated. We think it would be advisable to have a straighter alignment for this crosswalk, following the route pedestrians really want in heading for the bridge over the Muddy River inside the Fens.

A more far-reaching option for improving the crosswalk design would be to remove the short section of Forsyth Way that connects to the Fenway, and have cars making the Forsyth Way/Fenway connection use the Fenway Service Road. Closing this portion of Forsyth Way
retrieves both the traffic island and the street right-of-way as parkland, and greatly improves potential options for a crosswalk. This new parkland affords additional options to design a connection between the Fenway and the Southwest Corridor Park, as suggested by Professor Peter Furth. The short portion of Forsyth Way between the Fenway and the Fenway Service Road could become one-way away from the Fenway, and could both be narrowed and still include parking on both sides of the street. This modest change in the street system would add parkland, simplify pedestrian and vehicle travel and allow the creation of a safer “T” intersection.

Comments on the options proposed for the intersection of the Fenway and the Fenway Service Road
• For this intersection WalkBoston prefers Alternative 4, which includes two crosswalks on the Fenway. This alternative connects closely with the existing pedestrian paths on both sides of the Fenway and directly fits with observed pedestrian desire lines.
• A raised crosswalk at this location does not appear to be necessary if one is provided at the Forsyth Way intersection with the Fenway (which effectively slows traffic as it approaches the Fenway Service Road intersection).
• The intersection should be treated the same as the Forsyth Way intersection, with a ‘stop’ line to facilitate visibility of pedestrians, signs to warn drivers of the crossings on both sides of the intersection and in the median, and a pair of Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons attached to the warning signs on either side of the road.
• The proposed new sidewalk along the Fenway and the bump-outs for pedestrians at the intersection are welcome and very significant improvements included in the proposal for the intersection.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the design options. Please feel free to contact WalkBoston with any questions and we would be happy to meet with you about our design suggestion.

Sincerely,

Robert Sloane
Senior Project Manager

CC:
Patrice Kish, DCR
Julie Crockford, Emerald Necklace Conservancy
Jessica Mortell, Toole Design

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