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Old 06-09-2006, 06:52 AM   #1
statler
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City Hall Plaza

I'm surprised the 'new' forum has made this far without a City Hall plaza thread.
So here goes...
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Originally Posted by The Globe
Fount of futility finally runs dry
City Hall Plaza eyesore gets a concrete solution

By Matt Viser, Globe Staff | June 9, 2006

It was to be a fountain that would soothe the soul, draw crowds, and serve as a paean to the great public space brought by urban renewal. Set in the brick tundra of City Hall Plaza, it never seemed to work quite as planned. Filters failed, motors didn't work, water leaked into the subway tunnel below.

For nearly four decades, it's been little more than a headache to mayors and the city maintenance crews who tried to fix it or otherwise put it to use. Now comes the latest solution. It has been paved over.

A gray concrete slab the size of a baseball infield has been laid over the sunken terraces meant to flow with rippling water, and city officials couldn't be happier.

``I think it's great," Mayor Thomas M. Menino said yesterday. ``That thing was a boondoggle from day one."

The fountain, like the plaza that is its home (once chosen as the worst public space in the world by the nonprofit group Project for Public Spaces), has been more often the butt of jokes than a public gathering place.

Barely a week after the fountain was first turned on in 1969, the filtration system malfunctioned and, according to one writer, the fountain spewed ``brown and green foam that no duck would wet his feathers in." Problems flowed, and officials have tested their wits against its fickle 90-horsepower motors and the 61 nozzles that have been choked with everything from beer cans to brassieres.

At one point, in a fit of mayoral determination, Menino ordered a garden hose with a sprinkler installed to make it look as if it were operating correctly. That idea was dropped after water leaked into the subway tunnel.

Against such a backdrop, the latest attempt has been greeted with something like relief, and zealous backing at City Hall.

``People are saying what a breath of fresh air this is and that the plaza looks just fantastic," said Michael Galvin, the city's commissioner of property and construction management.

The slab was installed by the MBTA, which plans to use a portion of the plaza for construction between the Government Center and Bowdoin T stops.

But that isn't stopping city officials from touting the concrete solution, saying it will stay put three to five years, maybe longer.

They invoke elaborate possibilities: Concerts, tables with umbrellas, vendors selling food. On Mondays and Wednesdays next month, there will be a farmer's market on the plaza, and selected artists can sell their wares.

``It has the possibilities to become a new event space for the city," said Julie Burns, the city's director of arts, tourism, and special events. ``It'll be a great spot to come and get your vegetables, listen to music, have a seat and maybe a lemonade."

At the 24th Annual Scooper Bowl earlier this week, strategically located on the edge of the new concrete, several passersby had other ideas.

Anna Adler, who often takes lunch breaks on the plaza, suggested a dance floor, a merry-go-round, or an ice skating rink, anything to take up the space.

``This doesn't work," she said of the bare concrete. ``This doesn't make you want to be here."

Added Derek Salvatore of Somerville: ``It's a step away from a parking lot. It's a slab."

But few lamented the demise of the fountain.

``I've probably been here a million times, and, to be honest, I've never noticed the fountain," said Karen Valente, who works across the street and was taking a break with pretzels and bottled water. ``It can't be that good of an attraction."

Donovan Slack of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com.
Link


Visitors enjoyed the fountain in its early days. (Globe Staff File Photo / 1970 / Elizabeth Jones)

Eventually the water and crowds stopped flowing. (Globe Staff File Photo / 2004 / David L. Ryan)

Possibilities for the new slab include concerts, tables with umbrellas, and vendors selling food. (Globe Staff Photo / Wendy Maeda)
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Old 06-09-2006, 09:20 AM   #2
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I don't get it, why is everyone thrilled about a concrete platform. It sounds and looks bad to me, maybe I just have to see it in person.
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Old 06-09-2006, 10:24 AM   #3
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Compared to what was there before, it's great. I think there needs to be a massive, movable, semi-permanent pushcart market on the plaza. Make it so that people walking from Gov't Center T to Faneuil Hall/Haymarket walk a gauntlet of pushcart vendors. When there's a big event on the Plaza (maybe 15 days per year) they can move all the pushcarts off, or to the side.

What does everyone think of that?
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Old 06-09-2006, 12:09 PM   #4
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How about, 'that's a big enough footprint for a building?'

In all my years growing up and living in the Boston area, I think that photo showing the fountain in actual operation is a first for me.
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Old 06-09-2006, 12:15 PM   #5
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but the space under it may be part of the Blue or Green Line tunnel, making it challenging to create a foundation.
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Old 06-09-2006, 12:22 PM   #6
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Yes, and the challenge could most likely create an interesting building.
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Old 06-09-2006, 12:41 PM   #7
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Quite true.
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Old 06-09-2006, 12:44 PM   #8
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Re: City Hall Plaza

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Globe
[b][size=18]``People are saying what a breath of fresh air this is and that the plaza looks just fantastic," said Michael Galvin, the city's commissioner of property and construction management.

The slab was installed by the MBTA, which plans to use a portion of the plaza for construction between the Government Center and Bowdoin T stops.

But that isn't stopping city officials from touting the concrete solution, saying it will stay put three to five years, maybe longer.

They invoke elaborate possibilities: Concerts, tables with umbrellas, vendors selling food. On Mondays and Wednesdays next month, there will be a farmer's market on the plaza, and selected artists can sell their wares.

``It has the possibilities to become a new event space for the city," said Julie Burns, the city's director of arts, tourism, and special events. ``It'll be a great spot to come and get your vegetables, listen to music, have a seat and maybe a lemonade."
I'll have a double of whatever they're drinking.... Come on --a new event space? Was City Hall Plaza previously short on space? And now it's looking "just fantastic"? I wish they'd just say "yeah, we know this is a totally mediocre stop-gap effort to hide the broken fountain that we're too incompetant to fix, but it's something."
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Old 06-10-2006, 01:41 AM   #9
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Why isn't it the samel level as the rest of the plaza??????????????

Just fill it in with dirt and put some bricks on top.
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Old 06-19-2006, 08:11 PM   #10
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"The Unfolding of City Hall Plaza"

Somebody's ideas displayed in the bank windows in Harvard Square:





"New Sudberry Street"



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Old 06-19-2006, 08:21 PM   #11
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Whoa thats a huge fountain. I wouldn't mind this change at all. Hopefully it will go thru. I'm still hoping that the building be demolished or recladded to something that looks better.
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Old 06-19-2006, 10:16 PM   #12
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Here's an idea, consolidate ALL city services' central administration and federal services' administration into one high security tower, perhaps in Winthrop Square in the form of the tallest lit beacon overlooking the city :wink:, and sell off the currently utilized buildings to pay for it. It would free a drastic amount of space in the city for development and increase tax revenues on the land. Additionally it would be more efficient to have all of the central services' headquarters located together for people needing to visit various department. It would be very expensive to make such a building hardened for dealing with the slim chance of being a target, but the sale of all the current, and often half empty, city buildings should theoretically be more than enough to cover all of the costs.
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Old 06-19-2006, 10:23 PM   #13
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City government should not be in a 'high security tower'; in fact, the existing security stuff in City Hall's lobby should be entirely removed. Government needs to be approachable by ordinary citizens.
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Old 06-19-2006, 10:59 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron Newman
City government should not be in a 'high security tower'; in fact, the existing security stuff in City Hall's lobby should be entirely removed. Government needs to be approachable by ordinary citizens.
So you're saying there should be no security whatsoever? That doesn't make much sense. The security people at City Hall make sure you're not carrying a gun or a bomb and after that you're pretty much free to roam around the building.
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Old 06-20-2006, 12:19 AM   #15
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Thats what the plaza needs, more fountains!
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Old 06-20-2006, 05:28 AM   #16
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Cambridge city hall, Somerville city hall, and even the New Hampshire State House get by with no entrance security whatsoever. I think Boston can do it, too.
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Old 07-09-2006, 06:44 PM   #17
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^True, but I think Boston is more important than Cambridge, Somerville, and New Hampshire. If cities like Philly or SF get by with no security, then you've got a point.

Also, I was watching the World Cup finals today (which I am very happy with because my home-country won!! ) and they showed shots of city hall plaza about 4 or 5 times during the broadcast. A large crowd was gathered there watching a big screen mounted on city hall. Why isn't this permanent?? The place actually looked lively and well used! Since tearing down and rebuilding govt' center is impractical right now, this could be a quick and effective way to liven up the plaza. They could put an even bigger screen up and show Red Sox games, Patriots, free movies. And while they're at it, why not construct a stage and move all those theater performances off the Common and onto city hall plaza (although I enjoy opera under the trees, the Common is already well used and has other attractions). And if there are no movies, games, or operas showing, govt' center could be a great place for large public art exhibitions (like The Gates in Central Park, except something that would work in govt' center). In the winter, why not build an ice skating rink (Frog Pond is overcrowded anyway)? These ideas seem so obvious....has the city already tried them and failed? I think that this would improve it much better than another fountain and some trees. Having a large, open gathering place is important for a city, and with just a little work, I think city hall plaza could move from the 10 worst public places in the country list to the 10 best.
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Old 07-09-2006, 07:12 PM   #18
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I like that idea.

The last time I recall seeing a giant TV screen in City Hall Plaza was for the 1999 All-Star Game, which was played at Fenway Park. They erected bleachers facing the TV, so you could get some feeling of actually being at the game.
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Old 07-09-2006, 08:51 PM   #19
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I was there today, and boy was it fun. So much energy, and considering the prominence of Italians in Boston compared to Frenchies (I'm over 70% French so that's not meant in any derogatory way, mr. PC police officer), I was pleasantly surprised to see my people represented so well. And when we were shown on TV it was instant eruption from the crowd. Good times.

Bleachers would have been nice, but it was also neat to see a sea of people spread out across all of the plaza. I asked a couple police officers for estimates on how many people were there, but they had no clue.
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Old 07-10-2006, 05:55 AM   #20
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I watched it in a neighborhood bar in Davis Square (bedecked with Forza Italia flags), but I too noticed the ABC broadcast cut away a couple of times to show the crowd in Boston City Hall Plaza, along with the crowds in Paris and Rome.
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