Tag: seaport

Seaport Square Expanded NPC Comment Letter 11/1/17

Seaport Square Expanded NPC Comment Letter 11/1/17

November 1, 2017

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

Gary Uter
Boston Planning and Development Agency
One City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201

Re: Comments on the Seaport Square Expanded NPC, MEPA 14255

Dear Secretary Beaton and Mr. Uter:

Roughly 13 acres of the Seaport Square project remains to be developed. The remaining parcels primarily sit behind the major frontage of the project on Seaport Boulevard, are sandwiched between off-­ramps to the Harbor Tunnel approaches and reach from Summer Street to the water’s edge at Fan Pier. The expanded Notice of Project Change describes a project that is framed around the north-­south local streets that flank “Harbor Way,” a new and wide interior pedestrian street that will extend 5-­6 blocks between the Harbor and Summer Street.

1. The concept for Harbor Way is very strong. The major and continuous pedestrian street is planned and designed to encourage its use by large numbers of people. Harbor Way is intended to create the focus for a sort of ‘downtown’ for the Seaport District that will serve commuters, visitors and tourists. The success of Harbor Way is critical to attracting and retaining tenants and users of the corridor.

2. Generally, mid-­block crossings are provided for pedestrians.

  • At Congress Street the proposed mid-­block pedestrian crossing is protected by signalization, bump-­outs to narrow the crossing distance, and a refuge median.
  • At Autumn Lane, a privately owned minor street designated primarily for service vehicle access, the possibility of a platform or raised crossing has been mentioned.
  •  At Seaport Boulevard the pedestrian crossing is mid-­block and will be a fully signalized crossing.

3. At this time a mid-­block crossing of Summer Street seems to be missing from the plan and needs to be addressed.

  • We ask that the proponent work closely with the City and the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) to plan for a major mid-­block pedestrian crossing at the end of Harbor Way, where it would logically cross Summer Street. We hope that the MCCA will be able to take on some of the responsibility for helping to plan and fund this mid-­block crossing, as its main entrance is only a long city block away and the Harbor Way is likely to form a major attraction for the visitors to BCEC events in the future.
  •  The City should be involved, as it is already programming a major reconstruction of the cross-­section of Summer Street from the Fort Point Channel up to Boston Wharf Road, a mere half-­block away from this proposed crossing. Continuing this improvement to the BCEC should be a major objective for development of the area. The Summer Steps at the terminus of Harbor Way should not be constructed until the mid-­block pedestrian crossing is laid out and programmed for construction.
  • A disappointing aspect of development along Boston Wharf Road is the existence of the very large Park Lot C owned by the U.S. Post Office Department, which abuts Summer Street, where Boston Wharf Road passes under it. This particular site, with difficult roadway access, is unfortunately situated so that improvements in connection with the construction of Harbor Way are unlikely, even though the mid-­block crossing that is so essential for the future success of Harbor Way at its terminus with Summer Street. Ownership and physical configuration of the site mean that the proponent, the City and the Convention Center Authority will need to work together to plan and build the mid-­block crossing at this location.

4. The anchor for the south end of Harbor Way has been left partially undefined. The proponent has designed the Summer Steps to take advantage of a 24’ grade change between the site and the level of Summer Street. A supplementary elevator is provided, and the steps have a ramp to be used by cyclists. A portion of the steps could also become the seating in a performance facility, aided by electronic connections and lighting to encourage its use. A generous setback between the bottom of the stairs and Congress Street will allow for staged performances. The two sites that flank the steps are loosely defined as office and a possible hotel, and include the possibility of a 650-­seat public performance space. Without development of the two sites, the Steps may not be feasible.

5. A strong anchor for the north end of Harbor Way appears somewhat elusive. Harbor Way ends at a pavilion that would mirror District Hall across the park known as Seaport Common. The building will house a stairway and elevator leading to its roof, which will be open to the public. The two lower floors will house the Mass. Fallen Heroes Mourning Room and perhaps a restaurant. Access to the waterfront will continue along the side of the building, leading to a street to the ICA building and the harbor’s edge. Thus the ICA and its waterfront area is the true anchor at the north end of Harbor Way. Access to the large, nearby Fan Pier Public Green (another possible anchor on the north end of Harbor Way) is indirect, and a diagonal trip across the proponent’s Common Park would complete a slightly different connection between Harbor Way and the waterfront. However, this kind of connectivity to the Fan Pier Public Green appears infeasible with the present plan for the Seaport Common pavilion.

6. Preservation of the pedestrian way between Seaport Boulevard and Northern Avenue should be central to planning of the north end of Harbor Way. The proponent has proposed that service and parking access to Parcel G will be via Northern Avenue which WalkBoston believes is an appropriate location. We believe that an alternative location for this access on Harbor Way (as proposed by others) would introduce very unfortunately add parking entrances and loading docks along this quiet and pleasant pedestrian way and transform it’s character. Harbor Way is designed as a special pedestrian space and parking and loading should not occur in the space, especially since reasonably convenient and accessible alternatives are easily available. We concur with the developer’s plan to keep Harbor Way free of these vehicular functions.

7. The streets flanking Harbor Way may pose challenges for successful pedestrian-­focused development. The proponent is committed to expanding the Harbor Way walking focus by lining two parallel streets with retail uses designed to appeal to pedestrians. Boston Wharf Road and the East Service road, parallel to Harbor Way, are proposed to be lined with retail and other public attractions. As the Harbor Way development blocks come on line, retail will be a major element to attract walkers into the district. It seems likely that retail will be somewhat slow to locate on either of the parallel streets until Harbor Way is successfully launched, a challenge in today’s low energy retail environment.

  • The East Service Road in particular may be difficult to develop as a retail spine. It will provide access to and from the Third Harbor Tunnel and I-­90 with connections into and through the Seaport District. Bicycle facilities have already been eliminated from the street because they were precluded by the many highway ramp links into the Interstate system. At the same time, pedestrian connections have been expanded with wider sidewalks, leading to an expanded retail area. Given the anticipated vehicular traffic on the street, retail activities seem unlikely in the near term, especially with the competition of the nearby Harbor Way with its robust pedestrian environment.
  • Pedestrian crossings should be explored at a mid-­‐block crossing of the East Service Road at Autumn Way to connect between Harbor Way and the so-­called M-­block development on the south side of East Service Road.
  •  Boston Wharf Road may attract retail uses, but will need to contend with the fact that this two-­way street provides major roadway access to the Seaport District and is likely to become a major access route for vehicles coming to the Harbor Way pedestrian spine. Sidewalks have been widened in anticipation of this evolution of the area.
  • Special attention may be needed at two locations on Boston Wharf Road. The first is the connection to Seagreen Park – Site Q – a park on the north side of the street, where a mid-­block pedestrian crossing is likely to be needed. Second, attention is being given to a through-­building connection further south to provide additional connections with Harbor Way, and it would be appropriate to evaluate whether a mid-­block crossing is warranted at this location.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on the pedestrian environment at Seaport Square. We are happy to answer any questions you have about our comments.

Best regards,

Wendy Landman                                 Bob Sloane
Executive Director                               Senior Planner

Cc Yanni Tsipis, WS Development Jim Fitzgerald, BPDA Fred Peterson, MCCA Pat Sullivan, Seaport TMA

Comments on the Seaport Square NPC, MEPA 14255-3/24/17

Comments on the Seaport Square NPC, MEPA 14255-3/24/17

March 24, 2017

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

Gary Uter
Boston Planning and Development Agency
One City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201

Re: Comments on the Seaport Square NPC, MEPA 14255

Dear Mr. Beaton and Mr. Uter:

WalkBoston is pleased to submit comments on the revised Seaport Square project in the South Boston Seaport District.

We applaud the developer’s broad and thoughtful approach to creating a walkable and pedestrian focused sense of place. In particular, the new walking connection to Summer Street; the extensive, interesting and continuous connection to the harbor via Harbor Way; and the fact that the development is at the same grade with the rest of the Seaport District provide great opportunities to help transform the district into a lively part of the City.

Our comments are focused on several detailed design and management issues that we believe should be further considered as the project moves toward final development and implementation.

  1. We are very pleased that the proponent is providing an additional entrance to the Courthouse Silver Line station. This will provide weather-­protected access to transit and provide very convenient transit access for people walking in the area. We urge the developer to ensure that safe crosswalks are provided to the Silver Line station on Northern Avenue and on the nearby intersecting streets -­ Marina Park Drive and Boston Wharf Road -­ two cross streets that are not precisely aligned with one another. The crosswalks should serve desire lines for walkers going to or from the station.
  2. Several of the key pedestrian crosswalks that will serve the project require further attention to pedestrian safety.
  • The lane widths shown on Figures 1-­35 and 1-­36 show that Congress Street and East Service Road will have overly wide 12’ and 15’ travel lanes. The un-­‐signalized pedestrian crosswalk on Congress Street is 70’ wide and we believe that substantial safety measures are needed to make this a safe place for pedestrians, in particular because many of the vehicles using this street will be coming from or heading toward I-­90, a situation that causes drivers to think that they are in a higher speed situation. Among the measures that should be considered are: addition of a traffic signal, narrowing the lanes and the crossing distance, and addition of a raised crossing.
  • The diagrams of other streets show 10.5 – 11’ foot lanes. We urge the proponent to work with the City to shrink all lanes to 10’ or 10.5,’ which the City’s Complete Streets Guidelines suggest as a reasonable width for an urban street.
  • At the edge of the project, a crossing of Summer Street to connect Seaport Square with the BCEC is absolutely essential. This crosswalk must be fully protected by a traffic signal. We believe that a gracious and safe pedestrian crossing of Summer Street will be important to the financial success of Seaport Square in addition to fulfilling the needs for a walker-­‐centric design.
  • No signals are provided for five pedestrian crossings of Northern Avenue. While this may be viewed as a slow-­‐moving street, great care should be taken with the design to ensure that all the crossings are safe for pedestrians, with minimal crossing distances and street designs and parking management that ensure that pedestrians waiting to cross can be seen by approaching motorists.
  • It is noteworthy that signalized crossings are added along Seaport Boulevard at pedestrian crossings between Farnsworth Street and the Harbor Shore Drive pedestrian way, between Thompson Street and Fan Pier Boulevard, and at the important pedestrian crossing where the Summer Street–to-­‐harbor pedestrian way intersects the Seaport Boulevard and also leads to the new entrance to Courthouse Station on the Silver Line.
  1. The shadow conditions in the project area suggest that the proponent will need to make special provisions to make the pedestrian zones comfortable during colder parts of the year. The developer might look to some of the work highlighted by WinterCities (http://wintercities.com/home/about/) for ideas on this topic.
  2. The proposed design for Seaport Boulevard as shown in Figure 1-­6 does not yet accomplish the goals for a truly walkable urban district. Except for a partially widened median strip, the roadway appears to have few distinctions from the existing conditions. Among the measures that should be considered for Seaport Boulevard are:
  • Narrow lanes and frequent raised crossings to slow traffic
  • Pedestrian scale lighting
  • Activated ground floor uses to give a sense of place for people walking along the street •  Pedestrian wayfinding
  • We also urge the proponent to consider whether a widened median is a desirable design feature to be continued throughout the project area. The landscaping with rocks, grasses and sculptures might truly make the boulevard distinctive. Landscaping features could also be added on the sidewalks, making the walking experience more pleasant.

All of the design features noted above could help shift the street from its existing character as an auto-­centric roadway to one that is attractive and safe for pedestrians.

  1. The proponent should consider walking conditions and amenities on the edges of the project as well as the center – people will be walking everywhere and the NPC is focused very heavily on the central Harbor Way. We urge that the many other streets be carefully planned as well.
  2. Because the project is so large and will create a significant portion of the Seaport District’s character, it seems to have the potential to provide a pedestrian and land use environment that can serve a diverse and multi-­‐generational population. We urge the developer to pay attention to the mix of uses, shops and restaurants and their pricing so that they are attractive to all members of the greater Boston community.
  3. Bicycle accommodations shown in the NPC do not seem to represent Boston’s current thinking about the need to provide low stress bicycle facilities. While this is not WalkBoston’s area of expertise, we believe that it is very important for the Seaport District to accommodate bicycles as well as possible.
  • For example, Figure 3-­13, Transportation Circulation Plan, shows bicycle lanes on Northern Avenue, Seaport Boulevard and Boston Wharf Road, without indicating connections to the City’s planned bicycle routes on Congress Street, Summer Street, the Northern Avenue Bridge, the Evelyn Moakley Bridge, and Seaport Boulevard east of East Service Road. Potential north-­‐south connections between these main routes are ignored. Possible bicycle lanes on Sleeper Street, Fan Pier Boulevard, Marina Park Drive or other connecting streets are not indicated.
  • Bicycle lanes on Seaport Boulevard are shown in ways the City is no longer supporting. Figure 1-­6 shows bicycle lanes adjacent to moving traffic, while the City is now working to provide protected bicycle lanes (between parked cars and the sidewalk) on arterials.
  • The crosswalk on Summer Street will also be used by cyclists on the Summer Street cycle tracks. Cyclists will be interested in crossing the street as they access the proposed development – particularly the critical and focal pedestrian path between Summer Street and the harbor. Special provision for cyclists should be included to preserve the safety of pedestrians throughout this potentially densely used walkway.


Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on the project, and would be pleased to answer any questions that our comments raise.



Wendy Landman
Executive Director


Cc Yanni Tsipis, WS Development
Jonathan Greeley, BPDA
Vineet Gupta, Boston Transportation Department
Patrick Sullivan, Seaport TMA


A newcomer’s guide to a walkable lifestyle

A newcomer’s guide to a walkable lifestyle

Tom Palmer covered transportation and real estate development for 15 of his 32 years as a reporter and editor at the Boston Globe. He now owns Tom Palmer Communication, a consulting firm.

I’m a newcomer to Boston. I’ve only been here 40 years. The city has changed a lot in that time, but one thing hasn’t changed. It’s still a walkable city. My friends from the Midwest, and even some who visit from bigger cities closer to us, are invariably pleasantly surprised at how accessible and manageable it is. “I love Boston, because you can walk across town in 45 minutes,” a visitor told me.

There’s a lot of room for improvement, of course. Our walk/don’t walk/take-your-life-in-your-hands lights could be better. Pedestrians could shape up by paying attention to lights, but the streets are often so narrow it’s often tempting to make a run for it.

Another thing that hasn’t changed in my short time living in the Boston area is the price of housing. The front pages of newspapers in the 1970s lamented the high rents and home prices of the day, just like we do now. And today it’s even less affordable.

Even some Boston folks who arrived more recently than I object to the fact that Boston is growing so much, that it’s so much more congested than it was. We are lucky we have the attractions and resources – educational, business, medical, sports, cultural, entertainment – that make people want to come here and stay. In the years since Boston shook off its post-War slump and reinvented itself for the 21st century, we gradually and collectively chose to be a contemporary world-class city – competing for business and talent globally and growing to enable us to do that. As engaging as historical Old Boston was, and while we will preserve much of it, we elected not to remain a provincial, insulated community.

With that choice came the responsibility to overcome the barriers to increasing our housing supply, to accepting density. We’ve taken some steps in that direction, adding thousands of apartments just since the recent recession. Boston was at its most dense at mid-20th century, but the automobile did not yet dominate like it does in today’s car culture. People walked more and took public transportation more. The population then declined and only began growing again in about 1990. If we are going to accommodate continually increasing numbers of fellow residents of the Boston area, we must adjust our ways so we can all efficiently get where we need to go. A young professional woman I met the other day rides a fold-up electric scooter from her home in the Seaport to her job in the Back Bay, wearing a collapsible helmet that she found from a European manufacturer. We need more entrepreneurial commuters like that.

But most people in the city are going to walk at least a portion of their daily trips. Walking is healthy and social. As a counterpart, a big part of the solution to our overcrowded highways and streets is expanding our transit capacity. That means both fixing our ill-maintained existing MBTA system and eventually adding to the network. A good transit system enables and encourages walking.

Our continued economic development and our quality of life depend on it.

This article was featured in WalkBoston’s January 2017 newsletter.
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Comment Letter: General Electric Headquarters Project EA 15547

Comment Letter: General Electric Headquarters Project EA 15547

September 30, 2016

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

Re: General Electric Headquarters Project EA 15547

Dear Mr. Beaton,

WalkBoston has reviewed the Expanded Environmental Notification Form for this project and we
offer our comments below.

We are excited that GE is locating its headquarters in Boston, and is proposing a project that has such an urban plan where the great majority of trips to the site will be by people walking – about 70% if both walking and transit/walking trips are included. Ensuring that walking connections to the site are convenient, accessible and attractive will be critical to welcoming the public and GE staff to the headquarters.

We think there are several aspects of the site that are exciting for pedestrian access, and where great attention to the details of the walking environment will provide important access benefits.

1. The Fort Point Channel setting – The public realm improvements associated with the project are substantial and will take advantage of the waterside site for its many users.

• The project will include a major building entrance facing a widened 18-foot Harborwalk. On the water’s edge overlooks are provided to heighten contact with the Channel and its water views. A seating zone along the Harborwalk is provided as an extension of the central plaza between Brick Buildings and the New Building. We hope that GE will include site programming that takes advantage of the waterfront portion of the site.

• A path network connects the site with the Harborwalk, including accessible paths. It is likely that many pedestrians will use the stairway from Summer Street to the Harborwalk as this is the most direct route between the site and South Station. The route should be well marked with pedestrian wayfinding signs.

• We recommend adding shade trees along the Harborwalk, and amenity that is mentioned quite often in walkers’ comments.

2. Site entrance on Necco Street – Compared with the Harborwalk entrance, the Necco Street entrance design seems less well developed in the EENF. However, this will be the principal entrance to the site for residents arriving from the Fort Point and Seaport Districts, South Boston, and for people driving to the site. Also, Necco Street will of necessity be the route for people with disabilities because the Harborwalk access is via a stairway from Summer Street and the site.
• The Necco Street entrance should be designed to be as important and attractive as the Harborwalk entrance. The sidewalk is shown as widened to 12’, but is narrowed to carve out a lengthy vehicle drop-off lane along much of the site’s frontage. The sidewalk also accommodates the loading zone and garage entries, and bicycle storage on the sidewalk is also suggested. In combination, this mix of service uses would diminish the quality and functionality of the Necco Street sidewalk. We request that the proponent re-examine the sidewalk design to provide a gracious and welcoming entrance along Necco Street.

• Necco Street should be designed as a tree-lined street. In the 100 Acres Plan (2007) that includes this site, Necco Street is proposed to provide walking access to the proposed parkland that extends from the Fort Point Channel to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. The street is privately owned, suggesting the possibility for joint action with neighboring properties to improve it. The street right-of-way is nearly 60’ wide which could readily incorporate a design that accommodates two 10-foot travel lanes, two 7-foot parking lanes, and a wide tree-lined sidewalk along the site that also includes
benches and additional landscaping.
• The sidewalk at the main entrance to the buildings should have additional width to accommodate the many potential users. A compelling and elegant front door might be incorporated into the plans for reconfiguring the Brick Buildings.
• A Necco Street crosswalk should be provided at Necco Court to accommodate safe crossing from the large Necco Street Parking Garage across the street.

3. Off-site approaches to the Necco Street site entrance – The existing walking route from Summer Street (and thus South Station) to the boundary of the site is difficult for persons with disabilities to travel. The proponent should take the lead in ensuring that walking improvements are made to this route. This may require significant coordination with the City and with neighboring landowners, but will result in improved access for all users of the neighborhood.

• There is no curb ramp provided from Dorchester Avenue onto the Summer Street Bridge (south/GE side of the bridge). A curb ramp should be provided.

• Accessible access to GE from Summer Street will need to be provided via Melcher Street. However, the sidewalk along the south side of Melcher Street appears appears to have an excessive cross slope that is hazardous for persons with disabilities, and difficult for anyone pushing a stroller or pulling a suitcase. This cross slope will need to be fixed.

• Between Melcher Street and Necco Court on the west side of Necco Street, the sidewalk appears to be 8’ wide, but curb ramps are not provided where driveways cross the street. The sidewalk should be rebuilt to meet ADA requirements and provide a gracious walking route between GE and South Station.

4. Winter weather conditions and general maintenance –

• Management and operations planning should ensure good snow clearance between the site and South Station along the Harborwalk and the sidewalks of Necco and Melcher Streets. The proponent should work with adjacent property owners and business associations to assure good access to its site under winter weather conditions.
• The proponent should explore a greater degree of enclosure and a weather-resistant design for the GE Plaza walkway, a portion of which will be covered by a translucent canopy suspended between Brick Buildings and New Building. The current plan appears to work primarily in warm months, and multi-season use will add interest and vitality to the site.

5. Off-site issues – We urge the proponent to work with the city and the neighboring property owners to bring all nearby pedestrian facilities up to date.

• For example, the sidewalk at the bend of Necco Street (just south of the proponent’s site) needs to be completed, and there are uneven and heaved bricks in the Necco Street sidewalk from the bend to A Street. In addition several areas of the A Street sidewalk toward the Broadway Red Line station are not ADA compliant, because they are too narrow or have missing or insufficient curb ramps.

• The proponent should work with the City to ensure that traffic signal timing works well for pedestrians at intersections near the site.

We appreciate your consideration of our comments and your responses to them, and we look forward to working with GE, the City and other Fort Point community members on this exciting project.

Please feel free to contact WalkBoston with questions you may have.

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Cc Peter Cavanaugh, GE Ecosystem Transformation Leader


Comments on the Marine Wharf Project ENF 95585

Comments on the Marine Wharf Project ENF 95585

September 23, 2016

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

Re: Marine Wharf ENF 95585

Dear Mr. Beaton,

WalkBoston appreciates the opportunity to comment on this project and the pedestrian services it provides. The project is very interesting as it occupies a key site in the South Boston Seaport District.

The site is proposed to be developed as a 245 room hotel, which will be able to take advantage of the good and direct walking access to major sites nearby: within a radius of about 2-3 city blocks (1/4 mile) are the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, the Black Falcon Pier and Cruise Terminal, and the Boston Design Center. In addition the site is about 300 feet from a direct view of the Reserved Channel and its port activities – an exciting area of the Seaport District.

Other sites in the Seaport District are more difficult to access from the development site. Although both the performance space at the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion on the waterfront and the Harpoon Brewery and Beer Hall are within ¼ mile of the site, they are accessible only via Harbor Street, through a heavily industrial district dominated by truck traffic – not uninteresting, but somewhat unpleasant as a walking route.

Bus service along Summer Street is excellent, connecting both to South Boston and Downtown. An adjacent transit service that is somewhat complex is the Silver Line, which runs a branch along Black Falcon Avenue that connects into the main tunnel to the World Trade Center Pier and South Station. To reach the airport via the Silver Line, riders must transfer at Silver Line Way Station, not far from this site, but difficult to access because there is no direct walking route leading to it. The proponent may want to work with public agencies to secure more direct and safe pedestrian access to Silver Line Station, which is nearby – slightly more than 500 feet away as the crow flies.

Waterfront walks in the area surrounding the site are not encouraged, despite the location adjacent to the Reserved Channel. The Boston Harborwalk will someday pass directly through the Raymond Flynn Marine Park adjacent to the site, because it is a major land connection between the Seaport District and South Boston. However, at the moment the Harborwalk route is not completely signed between Northern Avenue and the South Boston parks and historic sites, leaving this area without a designated portion of its route.

Wayfinding signs would help hotel patrons find the many attractions of the South Boston Seaport more easily. The proponent should work closely with the group of organizations that have been planning and experimenting with wayfinding networks throughout the Seaport over the last year.

Sidewalks surround the proposed development on both Summer Street and Drydock Avenue. The lovely Raymond Flynn Marine Park, immediately adjacent to the site, affords additional open space for hotel patrons, but has not been incorporated into plans for the building and service areas.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to submit these comments.


Robert Sloane
Senior Planner