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Tag: walkable

Comments on The Draft Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Plan (DTW MHP) 11/18/16

Comments on The Draft Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Plan (DTW MHP) 11/18/16

November 18, 2016

Mr. Richard McGuinness
Deputy Director for Waterfront Planning
Boston Planning and Development Agency
One City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201

Dear Mr. McGuinness,

We write to you with comments regarding the Draft Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Plan (DTW MHP), with particular reference to the relationship of that plan to the future of the existing historic Northern Avenue Bridge.

Several elements of the draft plan are particularly relevant to our comments, and we have attached a number of citations from the DTW MHP and the Greenway District Planning Study Use and Development Guidelines that underlie our comments.

The Northern Avenue Bridge is an important contributing element to the downtown waterfront, and in fact, is a critical piece of the existing Harborwalk. Yet, the Bridge was seldom discussed at the public meetings. Mention of it was consistently dismissed or put on hold citing the City’s sponsored competition and unclear future plans for the fate of the historic bridge.

Part of the Downtown Waterfront vision included in the public realm plan includes clearly defined connections with well-­‐organized, high quality, and walkable pedestrian links. Failure to include a meaningful discussion of benefits and proposed interim connections to the Northern Avenue Bridge, we feel is shortsighted. As made clear from decades of resident and visitor use, the Bridge is key to enhancing pedestrian access and should be included and acknowledged in the Municipal Harbor Plan.

  •  The Bridge is a critical element of the walking environment providing the most convenient, attractive and harbor-­‐connected way for people to walk between the waterfront, downtown and the South Boston Harborwalk. This connection is called out as a core component of the MHP. Because the bridge is flat, is directly adjacent to the Harbor, and provides at-­grade connections to the street grid it is uniquely well suited to serve pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • The Bridge’s historic character is one of the most important contributors to District’s sense of place and connection to Boston’s industrial past. As stated in the DTW MHP (page 10), “Boston’s history and development are inextricably linked to the Downtown Waterfront District.” What better way to provide continuity than to keep the historic Bridge as a lively and well-­‐used element of the Harbor and Harborwalk.

We urge the City to include the Northern Avenue Bridge in the revisions to this draft Municipal Harbor Plan, with a discussion of the relevance of its flat profile, the proximity to the water surface that it provides for Harborwalk users, and the contribution of its industrial superstructure to the downtown waterfront environment. Not doing so is a conspicuously missing piece of what is otherwise an excellent draft plan.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on the draft plan.

Sincerely,

Greg Galer, Boston Preservation Alliance
Jill Valdes Horwood, Boston Harbor NOW
Paul Farrell, Michael Tyrrell, Dan McNichol, Friends of the Northern Avenue Bridge
Sara McCammond, Joe Rogers, Fort Point Neighborhood Association
Wendy Landman, WalkBoston

Cc Matthew A. Beaton, Secretary, EEA
Bruce Carlisle, Director, CZM
Ben Lynch, Waterways/Chapter 91 Program Chief, DEP
Brona Simon, SHPO, Massachusetts Historical Commission
Susan Goldberg, Circuit Executive, First Circuit Court of Appeals

Relevant citations from the DTW MHC and Greenway District Planning Study Use and Development Guidelines

From page 5 of the DTW MHP: “The DTW MHP implements the goals established in the Request for a Notice To Proceed (“RNTP”). The six goals in the DTW RNTP are to: 1. Continue to Develop the District as an Active, Mixed-­‐Use Area that is an Integral Part of Boston’s Economy; 2. Promote Access to Boston Harbor, the Harbor Islands and Water Transportation; 3. Improve Waterfront Wayfinding and Open Space Connections; 4. Enhance Open Space Resources and the Public Realm; 5. Create a Climate-­‐Resilient Waterfront; and 6. Implement the Greenway District Planning Study Wharf District Guidelines.”

And, from page 30 where the goals for the plan are described: “Connectivity: Strengthened connections from Downtown to the Harbor, Downtown to the South Boston Waterfront, from the Greenway to the waterfront, and from north to south. Boston has an incredible wealth of linear park systems and paths, from the Freedom Trail to the Walk to the Sea to the Rose Kennedy Greenway. This plan is an opportunity to enhance these connections and their relationship to the waterfront, and strengthen the Harborwalk and the Greenway—to draw people along the water’s edge and along one of the great park systems of the city. The key priorities are:

  •  North-­‐south connections, along both the Harborwalk and the Greenway. • East-­‐west links between the Greenway and the waterfront, building on the
  • Crossroads Initiative.

o  Connections from Northern Avenue to the South Boston Waterfront.
o Increasing water transit opportunities and connections, both within the Inner
o Harbor and beyond to neighboring communities.
o  Increasing accessibility by all modes, with a special emphasis on the pedestrian.

As noted above, the DTW MHP includes as one of its goals the implementation of the Greenway District Planning Study Use and Development Guidelines that include the following Wharf District Guidelines:

“The Hook Lobster Site (15 Northern Avenue), the U.S. Coast Guard Building and 400 Atlantic Avenue together frame important new connections to the emerging South Boston waterfront. These include the Old Northern Avenue Bridge, a part of the Oliver Street/Northern Avenue Crossroad, and the Moakley Bridge. While these sites are limited in size and development potential (particularly the Hook site), they nonetheless offer the possibility of increased legibility for both pedestrians and motorists where it is currently lacking. These parcels should contribute to the continuity and accessibility of the Harborwalk, which presents a significant challenge where the Moakley Bridge ramps up above grade. (Page 20)

“All developments in the Wharf District should enhance the continuity and accessibility of the Harborwalk by providing additional points of connection from the Greenway and by “repairing” breaks in the community caused by grade changes and buildings or other obstructions.” (Page 21)

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

 

 

 

Comments on PNF 425 Washington Street, Brighton

Comments on PNF 425 Washington Street, Brighton

February 8, 2016

Lance Campbell
Boston Redevelopment Authority
Boston City Hall
1 City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201

Re: Proposal for 425 Washington Street, Brighton (Parsons Crossing)

Dear Mr. Campbell,

WalkBoston appreciates the opportunity to comment on the Project Notification Form for 425 Washington Street in Brighton. We are commenting because of concern about pedestrian issues associated with this project.

This proposal is generally positive for pedestrians and for the neighborhood. The site is located in the heart of Brighton Center, the center of a walkable community where Washington Street  houses local shops and major establishments and services. The retail area is well-served by public transportation and Washington Street’s bus routes draw pedestrians to access the transit service. The proposal is designed to improve the appearance of the street where significant numbers of walkers will pass daily.

Notwithstanding this transit served and walkable setting, the project is quite auto-centric. In a densely built inner neighborhood that is already beset by too much traffic, the project seems With a high ratio of vehicle parking spaces to housing units (1.7), the project seems to be designed with cars, rather than walking and transit in mind.  The expectation that every housing unit requires at least one or more parking space is one of the continuing issues with rebuilding Boston’s neighborhoods. This should not be a requirement when a project is well served by both transit and walking facilities, where such a requirement may be outmoded. Moreover, it is an expectation that has been challenged successfully elsewhere in the city and should be challenged here as well, since many of Boston’s residents now forgo the decision to have a car and instead rely on public transit or private vehicle transport services such as Uber or carsharing options such as Zipcar.

We are concerned that the city is exploring guidelines that would affect the changing tastes and needs of its newer residents in regard to use of vehicles, requiring fewer parking spaces. The developers of the project should explore less on-site parking and take advantage of the site to attract walkers within this very vibrant commercial area at the heart of the community. The underground parking portion of the project may become unneeded. Brighton has become a highly desirable inner neighborhood for residents including groups that are likely to be less reliant on cars – workers who choose not to own one, older folks moving back into the city for its advantages, and students who want to live along convenient bus routes that can reliably and efficiently take them to one of our many universities. As we are all well aware, individuals who do not own a vehicle are much more reliant on walking, a great convenience for many and one which definitively awards better health to those moving about on foot in the ordinary activities of everyday living.

Thank you for your consideration of our comments.

Sincerely,

Robert Sloane
Senior Planner

A Walkable Olympics

A Walkable Olympics

February 6, 2015

Boston 2024 has declared their intention to plan the most
walkable Olympics in history. This is good news – a truly walkable Olympics can
be more fun, manageable and sustainable for residents, visitors, and athletes.
Done right, the long term benefits of Olympic-related improvements for walking
will make Massachusetts residents healthier, local stores and Main Streets
livelier, our communities greener and our streets more accessible for all.

Neither Massachusetts nor Boston has ever
had a grand scheme for investing in and improving walking. Creating the bid for
the Olympics presents us with that opportunity. That’s why, as we start an
intensive and accelerated discussion of just how the Olympics should be
designed, operated and paid for, it is crucial to step back and consider how
the Games can have a lasting positive impact on walking and transportation in
Boston and beyond –in downtowns and
neighborhoods serving many of Massachusetts’ residents.

From Dorchester to Allston, from Lowell to
Brockton, and from Worcester to Foxborough, let’s add great sidewalks and paths
to connect the Olympic venues to transit. Since all of the Games’ spectators
will be directed to use transit, we should also use the Olympics as the
opportunity to improve walking and accessibility to all of the MBTA’s stations
– so that access to transit from the beginning of the trips to the Games is
also walkable. With a commuter rail system stretching from Newburyport to
Fitchburg, from Worcester to Providence and Plymouth – the transit system
encompasses more than 75% of Massachusetts’ population.

We need to consider what will happen well
before the Olympic flame is lit and long after the last Olympic Marathon
competitor crosses the finish line on Charles Street. Let’s start the conversation
right away and create a special Olympics Walking Advisory Group.  This will provide an independent voice for ensuring that
the Games and their legacy are truly walkable and that they are the impetus to
inspire the mix and level of private, local, state and federal investment
needed to make a great stride in connecting our communities to transit.

Let’s really plan and spend wisely on
walking – from creating interconnecting paths and greenways across the city; to
making new smartly-designed walking connections to rail, subway and bus stops.
We need to improve the nitty gritty details that make it safer and easier for
everyone to cross every street such as ensuring that traffic signals are timed
correctly for walkers, and that traffic on city streets moves at a pace that
works for pedestrians.

Massachusetts is already one of the nation’s
leaders in pedestrian safety, and has among the nation’s highest proportion of
people who walk for their daily transportation needs. Let’s seize the Olympic moment and create walking connections
that will move the hordes of Olympic visitors for two weeks – and Massachusetts’ residents and visitors for decades to
come.

Wendy Landman
Executive Director, WalkBoston

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