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Old 05-16-2011, 04:20 PM   #1
optimusprimev20
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Whats Bostons biggest obstacle towards growth?

Hi, I am new to this forum and I understand there maybe conflicting views and theories as to why Boston just seems stagnant as far as urban development goes. These views have been scattered throughout the forum but i figured it would be helpful to see all theories placed here. The FAA/Location of Logan for one maybe one huge reason, but what are your thoughts?
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Old 05-17-2011, 12:02 PM   #2
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Re: Whats Bostons biggest obstacle towards growth?

One undeniable reason is Bostonians themselves. By grandstanding and crying about shadows, those who are in government try to use the complainers to get funding for their own pet projects. So the blame lies both on the mayor's cronies as well as the NIMBYs.
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Old 05-17-2011, 02:02 PM   #3
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Re: Whats Bostons biggest obstacle towards growth?

I attended a community meeting in Orient Heights last night. A vocal contingent of abutters were in attendance to speak out against the construction of a 3-story, 6-unit residential building (downsized from 4-story, 8-unit, due to earlier demands from the abutters), on a currently-vacant lot. The street is currently zoned commercial/industrial, though there are several multi-unit residences that either pre-dated the current zoning, or were constructed with a variance.

NB: The owner of the property could legally construct a 4-story industrial building (height allowed is 45') without a community process, but has chosen to go the residential route because he believed that residential use would be more acceptable to the surrounding community.

The saturation of anti-development sentiment, gifted by "activists" to an ignorant populace, can be flagged as "Exhibit A" to your question.
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Old 05-17-2011, 10:36 PM   #4
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Re: Whats Bostons biggest obstacle towards growth?

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One undeniable reason is Bostonians themselves. By grandstanding and crying about shadows, those who are in government try to use the complainers to get funding for their own pet projects. So the blame lies both on the mayor's cronies as well as the NIMBYs.
Thats pretty sad, and quite honestly I just dont understand these people. Maybe its our puritan ways still stuck here. Bostonians seem to have some duality, jekyll and hyde-esq, quality to them in regards to being viewed as forward thinking people yet stuck in our ways in so many aspects. sigh.
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Old 05-17-2011, 10:38 PM   #5
optimusprimev20
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Re: Whats Bostons biggest obstacle towards growth?

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Originally Posted by Beton Brut View Post
I attended a community meeting in Orient Heights last night. A vocal contingent of abutters were in attendance to speak out against the construction of a 3-story, 6-unit residential building (downsized from 4-story, 8-unit, due to earlier demands from the abutters), on a currently-vacant lot. The street is currently zoned commercial/industrial, though there are several multi-unit residences that either pre-dated the current zoning, or were constructed with a variance.

NB: The owner of the property could legally construct a 4-story industrial building (height allowed is 45') without a community process, but has chosen to go the residential route because he believed that residential use would be more acceptable to the surrounding community.

The saturation of anti-development sentiment, gifted by "activists" to an ignorant populace, can be flagged as "Exhibit A" to your question.
Pretty much what ADAMBC mentioned too - Perhaps theres a lot to be said about the residents of our city after all, how can this culture ever change? I think it will take some people who push some great projects through despite the nay-sayers. And eventually people will realize that responsible, inventive developments are a great thing to the community
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Old 05-17-2011, 11:29 PM   #6
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Re: Whats Bostons biggest obstacle towards growth?

First, obstacles to growth are everywhere, not just Boston, and if there are not obstacles it means its a place not worth caring about. Look at Miami a couple of years ago--its skyline tripled in size at least, and most of it has not been "good" development. Boston doesn't grow like that because its inhabitants care about the way it is enough to care about making sure it doesn't change. While frustrating, this is also a good sign in many ways.

Better would be to put all the public process up front, so that the community clearly says what it wants, and then codify that vision in land use regulations that streamline the development process by allowing projects that present exactly what the community wants to be permitted as of right without being subject to additional appeal. This is the idea behind form-based codes as a replacement for traditional zoning. It takes all the anti-development pressure off and focuses energies into positive beforehand criticism of development patterns, saving time by avoiding piecemeal objections later. Everyone gets involved, all sides, developers, lenders, the community, etc., and a balance is struck, leading to an acceptable growth rate and an acceptable way to grow. From there projects sail through permitting. Lack of this sort of system is an obstacle to Boston's growth, in my opinion. That being said, Boston has already grown quite a bit relative to even other large cities. I believe it is still in the top 10 metro areas in the nation is it not?
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Old 05-17-2011, 11:48 PM   #7
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Re: Whats Bostons biggest obstacle towards growth?

Oniastic regard for one's own opinion.
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Old 05-20-2011, 11:05 PM   #8
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Re: Whats Bostons biggest obstacle towards growth?

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Oniastic regard for one's own opinion.
you mean onanistic?
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Old 05-20-2011, 11:06 PM   #9
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Re: Whats Bostons biggest obstacle towards growth?

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First, obstacles to growth are everywhere, not just Boston,
Thanks for your input and you make some interesting points - and while i recognize that its not a problem just here in Boston, it is the problem in Boston in which I only wonder/care about
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Old 05-20-2011, 11:40 PM   #10
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Re: Whats Bostons biggest obstacle towards growth?

A culmination of Da Mayuh Mumbles and his personal goals and his visions despite a lack of planning expertise, the BRA and their devotion to the mayor as well as some counter intuitive decisions, NIMBYs and their mundane little demands and screwed up views of how things should be, and various other events, dealings, and political machines.

BTW, I may be interpreting things wrong, but is it true there's no high speed internet in the Seaport? And all because Menino pissed off Verizon which wanted to bring FiOS to the area? What a doofus. No wonder it's a craphole! Coupled with nothing to ever look forward to but a god damned bus! (I don't think we can blame Menino for the bus, though).
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Old 10-18-2016, 05:02 PM   #11
Digital_Islandboy
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Re: Whats Bostons biggest obstacle towards growth?

Highways are maxed-out and subway system has no express tracks to move more people quickly. Commuter Rail running every 45 mins - 1 hour and using it as an inter-city subway does not an alternative make. Boston needs a true underground subway link that circles around the outer spokes of the subway so that you truly don't need to go through the central Charles River -- to -- Fort Point and Airport -- Harvard Square core. Glorified bus isn't really rapid transit because they still get stuck in the same traffic so one might as well keep their car(s).
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Old 10-18-2016, 09:00 PM   #12
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Re: Whats Bostons biggest obstacle towards growth?

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Originally Posted by Digital_Islandboy View Post
Highways are maxed-out and subway system has no express tracks to move more people quickly. Commuter Rail running every 45 mins - 1 hour and using it as an inter-city subway does not an alternative make. Boston needs a true underground subway link that circles around the outer spokes of the subway so that you truly don't need to go through the central Charles River -- to -- Fort Point and Airport -- Harvard Square core. Glorified bus isn't really rapid transit because they still get stuck in the same traffic so one might as well keep their car(s).
Great post-- efficient infrastructure makes a city great.

Instead we have our leaders giving tax incentives to companies like Liberty Mutual to help build their corporate tower in the backbay. Instead of building better infrastructure for the masses.

When you sitting in traffic thank our leaders in Mass for being so short-sited.

Traffic is out of control across the board around the state.
Can't wait for the Casino---That should do wonders.
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Old 01-10-2017, 12:47 AM   #13
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Re: Whats Bostons biggest obstacle towards growth?

i really enjoyed reading this post.

http://www.archboston.org/community/...ead.php?t=1599

posted by Joe Schmoe/04-21-2007

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Schmoe
Boston architecture has reached an impasse. The brutal physical and psychological wounds modernism inflicted on Boston in the 50s and 60s have never healed, and while many modern architects arrogantly refuse to acknowledge the damage done, traditionalists stubbornly prevent architecture from advancing. A kind of truce was called in recent decades with contextualism. However, contextualism has seemed to run out of steam of late and half-hearted and uninspiring buildings have become the norm. Here are some thoughts I have had on ways to push Boston architecture forward and cut the Gordian knot between history and innovation that paralyzes so much of Boston?s recent buildings.


Palette:
Boston is blessed to have what few American cities have: a palette. Most American cities are indistinguishable from one another, but San Francisco has its whites, Santa Fe has its adobe, New York (at least formerly) had its limestone, and Boston has its reds and browns. Tragically, far too much recent development dilutes Boston?s palette and substitutes colors that would be equally at home in any of the world?s cities. This is not to say that every building has to confirm to this color scheme, after all, Beacon Hill is not all red brick, but the violations serve to enhance the tone rather that detract from it. The same can not be said for much new construction.


(How unified palette contributes to effective skyline)



(Notice that each building is slightly different in color, yet holds together as a unity.)


It is crucial to realize Boston?s palette did not develop accidentally as many seem to suppose. Architects act as though Boston?s obsession with brick is mere sentimentality, or worse simply a stubborn refusal to be open-minded. On the contrary, brick continues to reproduce in Boston because it adapts to its environment successfully. Just as white works wonderfully in sunnier climes, Boston is a grim and bleak place much of the year, and white quickly becomes grey after a few years and there is all to much grey as it is in February and March. The South Boston waterfront with its cream and grey buildings is going to be almost uninhabitably grim in the winter months, just as is the Christian Science center is with its vast expanse of windswept concrete.




(Why lighter colors don?t work in Boston)


Materials:
Brick, on the other hand, works beautifully in New England with its seasons. Nothing is greyer than Boston in, say February or March, but the red buildings of the North End, South End, or Beacon Hill provide much needed color and warmth.

However, brick works best as a background on which other architectural elements are applied, and when brick is brought into the foreground it can become horribly repetitive and dull. Thus, red brick does not lend itself to modernism as modernism loves to emphasize the material rather than its adornment whereas pre-modern architecture put the underlying material in the background. Modernism's favorite virtues are the "dramatic" and "presence." Too many modern architects in Boston have thought that the way to achieve drama is to make things vast, as in vast expanses of glass or concrete. If vastness is what causes a building to have dramatic presence, it is thought, vast expanses of brick can be dramatic as well. However, there is nothing dramatic about a vast expanse of brick, as our beloved City Hall plaza or Transportation building shows.


(Too much of a good thing)


However, it is possible to respect the Boston palette while not resorting to red brick. The Allston library by Machado and Silvetti is a great example for a building that is not brick, uses original materials, is indisputably modern, but successfully keeps what works in the Boston palette.


(I would love to see Machado and Silvetti do an entire condo complex with these tiles)



(5 different types of material that hangs together beautifully)


Nike Town is another example where a red slate is used instead of brick.




Neo-humanism:
Modernist architects early on realized that the 20th century was the century of the masses: mass transportation, mass media, mass education, mass production. The architecture they practiced was an attempt to reflect this political change but ended up being cold, alienating, and impersonal. The 21st century is going to be a flight from modern alienation and anonymity and a search for a greater sense of intimacy and community. Boston can be in the forefront of this movement. It is difficult to see how this will be expressed in architecture, but a reaction against the homogenizing universality of International style, towards diversity and regionalism is guaranteed. I can foresee an attempt to break up larger buildings into smaller, human-scaled, segments, and to humanize the cold impersonal glass curtain wall similar to how musicians attempt to make digital music sound ?warmer? by adding the warm hiss that older records naturally had.


Ornamentation:
Modern architecture?s banishment of ornamentation has long since ceased having any sort of aesthetic or intellectual underpinning and has become mere dogma. Here is the sculpture of saints from H.H. Richardson?s Trinity Church.




There is no reason that architects could not again work with sculptors in this way and a modern building incorporate modern sculpture. Here is a half-hearted attempt in that direction?the sea-serpent sculpture on the South Boston waterfront:




Likewise, it is pure arrogance to think that the unadorned style of modern architectural elements, columns for example, will be the final word for the rest of time and that a new style will never come along. It is time to innovate and come up with a new style.



It is pure arrogance to believe that architecture will eternally cling to the unadorned modern columns and no new style will take its place. Eventually there will be a new style of these architectural elements and Boston should be the place it is born.




Texture:
Architecture has been sleek and smooth for going on 90 years now. It is long overdue for a reaction. A truly cutting-edge and original style will rediscover the virtues of texture in materials. Again, Machado and Silvetti?s Allston public library provides a nicely textured and original fa?ade.




Form:
The last nail in the coffin of modernism has been the recent abandonment of the ?form follows function? mantra that was modernism?s raison d?etre. Having abandoned traditional building materials and restricting themselves to the modern, having foresworn texture for the sleek, having outlawed ornamentation, all modern architecture has left to play with is form. This results in the twisting, pulling, stretching, and bending that make up the entirety of architectural originality today. Liebeskind and Gehry, among others, have taken this to ridiculous lengths, and a conservative reaction is guaranteed.





In my opinion, the weakest part of Machado and Silvetti?s Allston public library is the pass? inverted roofline. In a city full of far too many dull boxes, some variety of form is welcome, but Boston should resist the urge to hop on the current bandwagon of ridiculous, and in their own way, ostentatious, modern buildings.


Composition:
It has been often repeated that what makes Boston the great city that it is are its many neighborhoods. A new Boston style of architecture would abandon the notion that the unit of architectural aesthetic evaluation is the individual building and come to realize that the neighborhood is equally the unit of evaluation and that when constructing a building, the architect is contributing to a larger artistic composition: the neighborhood. The building is as much a part of a preexisting whole as it is a whole itself. Thus the architect needs to consider whether this building contributes to or detracts from this larger composition as much as they consider the quality of their individual building. Is the building being a good neighbor, or a loud, arrogant, and disruptive egotist? For example, Hugh Stubbins? buildings for Boston Hospital completely ignored and overwhelmed the existing fabric set down by Gridley Fox Bryant.


(Bad neighbor)



(Why did this building move to Boston? It could have been equally at home in any city.)


Audience:
The first thing a writer learns to ask is ?who is your audience.? Writing for a group of specialists, or laymen, children, or students will of course affect the tone and style of ones writing. Architects need to ask the same question, who is the audience of this building? All too often it is obvious that the audience of much of today?s architecture is other architects. The building is meant to impress other avant garde architects, to make one?s reputation among ones peers, to get noticed by journals or academics. A new Boston style?a democratic rather than aristocratic style?would have as its audience the people of the neighborhood or city where the building is being made. This does not mean that the building needs to pander to the tastes of the crowd, to reproduce what the layman is used to, or to simply reach for the lowest common denominator. But it does force a change in the architect?s attention, to realize who this building is for, to stop considering the people of the neighborhood as mere philistines whom the architect is going to educate from on high. For example, H.H. Richardson?s Romanesque buildings were quite a departure from the existing status quo, but always had the attitude that they were there to serve the people who were going to use them, he never sneered at the tastes of his audience the way much so-called cutting edge architecture seems to.


Landscaping:
Landscape architecture has progressed little in the US since Olmstead. The goal still seems to be the recreation in reality of 18th and 19th century landscape painting. There have been some adjustments informed by the greater understanding of ecology?the banishment of invasive species for example. This movement must be pushed forward. A Boston style of landscaping should have as its point not the creation of a pastoral idyll, but the promotion of maximum biodiversity. For example, I remember reading of a courtyard that was being built in honor of a resident who was an avid birder. The plantings were chosen by what would be most attractive to different species of birds at different times of the year. This promotion of biodiversity should be norm and not the exception and the standard of beauty should be nature?s abundance, the pleasure derived from the perception thereof, and not the amusement park experience of wondering through a living idealized landscape painting.


Affect
Finally, a new Boston style, "Boston Neo-humanism," would re-examine what emotional affect the architect should have on the viewer. Whereas modernism always seeks to challenge the viewer, to confound expectations, or to cause awe, or anxiety, or at best to "intellectually challenge" the viewer through irony, confrontation, or even spite, there is a call for a new approach. I vote that the architect should always strive to produce buildings that the viewer would love.
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Old 01-10-2017, 09:01 AM   #14
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Re: Whats Bostons biggest obstacle towards growth?

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Originally Posted by Digital_Islandboy View Post
Highways are maxed-out and subway system has no express tracks to move more people quickly. Commuter Rail running every 45 mins - 1 hour and using it as an inter-city subway does not an alternative make. Boston needs a true underground subway link that circles around the outer spokes of the subway so that you truly don't need to go through the central Charles River -- to -- Fort Point and Airport -- Harvard Square core. Glorified bus isn't really rapid transit because they still get stuck in the same traffic so one might as well keep their car(s).
That is a little pessimistic on the Urban Ring. With sufficient busway and dedicated lanes it will work well. There is plenty of room on our roadways for bus traffic to flow freely if we make it a priority over cars and parking.

Don't hold your breath for a ring subway. For that matter, don't hold your breath for BRT Urban Ring either.

The Orange and Red fleets are already getting their overhaul. The GLX is progressing. The lowest hanging fruit remaining for transit improvement with the biggest impact is making the bus routes that already exist work better.

Talking about a new subway in Boston is truly pointless. There is neither money nor political will. The only problem that will be tackled by digging in our lifetime is NSRL.



But speaking to the topic of the post, we have a lot of transit that is poorly utilized. I firmly believe we can address growth by changing the transit geometry without shovels by simply changing land use policy. Make every neighborhood more mixed-use. De-centralize the central business district and build many thousands more homes within walking distance of jobs.
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Old 01-10-2017, 11:47 PM   #15
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Re: Whats Bostons biggest obstacle towards growth?

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Landscape architecture has progressed little in the US since Olmstead. The goal still seems to be the recreation in reality of 18th and 19th century landscape painting.
Not sure if I can agree with that.

Lechmere Canal Park may be Olmstead-esque, but Levinson Plaza or the Armenian Heritage Park certainly are not.

(I note, this has nothing to do with Boston's obstacles towards growth, so if someone wants to start a thread to discuss landscape architecture, that would be great; I didn't see one dedicated to the topic)
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Old 01-10-2017, 11:50 PM   #16
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Re: Whats Bostons biggest obstacle towards growth?

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Originally Posted by fattony View Post
That is a little pessimistic on the Urban Ring. With sufficient busway and dedicated lanes it will work well. There is plenty of room on our roadways for bus traffic to flow freely if we make it a priority over cars and parking.

Don't hold your breath for a ring subway. For that matter, don't hold your breath for BRT Urban Ring either.

The Orange and Red fleets are already getting their overhaul. The GLX is progressing. The lowest hanging fruit remaining for transit improvement with the biggest impact is making the bus routes that already exist work better.

Talking about a new subway in Boston is truly pointless. There is neither money nor political will. The only problem that will be tackled by digging in our lifetime is NSRL.



But speaking to the topic of the post, we have a lot of transit that is poorly utilized. I firmly believe we can address growth by changing the transit geometry without shovels by simply changing land use policy. Make every neighborhood more mixed-use. De-centralize the central business district and build many thousands more homes within walking distance of jobs.
Blue Line to Lynn and <45 min Worcester <-> Boston would both be big wins in my book. If I could do door-to-desk Worcester <-> Boston commuting in an hour I would leave Boston and move somewhere walkable to Union Station.
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Old 01-11-2017, 09:09 AM   #17
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Re: Whats Bostons biggest obstacle towards growth?

We need a massive Transit UPGRADE--- A Trillion dollar Energy self-sufficient Grid designed probably by MIT engineers and scientists.

21st century Transportation Grid that leads Boston to another level.
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Old 01-11-2017, 09:19 PM   #18
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Re: Whats Bostons biggest obstacle towards growth?

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Blue Line to Lynn and <45 min Worcester <-> Boston would both be big wins in my book. If I could do door-to-desk Worcester <-> Boston commuting in an hour I would leave Boston and move somewhere walkable to Union Station.
If I remember correctly, the fastest the Boston & Albany line ever got was an hour each way. But I think we (read F-Line and everyone else in the commuter rail & MBTA threads) have beat that horse to death multiple times over.
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