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Design a Better Boston Are you disappointed with the state of Boston's current architecture/development? Think you have a better idea? Post it here.

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Old 08-25-2013, 09:05 PM   #21
vanshnookenraggen
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Re: Government Center

I think what would be a happy medium would be to lay down a few regular streets (2 ways with parking) and then a second network of pedestrian "streets" between lots so that you can have access for loading/parking/emergency but you'd still have the pedestrian experience that you are looking for.

Edit:
How's this: http://goo.gl/maps/CPgnP

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Old 08-25-2013, 09:25 PM   #22
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Re: Government Center

Sure. A continuation of Hanover Street and a diet of Congress Street would probably work.

The North End makes a fine model, I think.
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Old 08-26-2013, 09:00 AM   #23
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Re: Government Center

Quote:
Originally Posted by vanshnookenraggen View Post
I think what would be a happy medium would be to lay down a few regular streets (2 ways with parking) and then a second network of pedestrian "streets" between lots so that you can have access for loading/parking/emergency but you'd still have the pedestrian experience that you are looking for.

Edit:
How's this: http://goo.gl/maps/CPgnP

Blue is new development.
I'll take it.
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Old 08-26-2013, 03:41 PM   #24
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Re: Government Center

Connecting Hannover and Cambridge is useful but I would rather leave the rest of it pedestrian only. That way it leaves more room for stuff like outdoor seating.
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Old 08-26-2013, 05:29 PM   #25
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Re: Government Center

Surely someone here can pull the docs on the '00s proposal by Norman Levanthal, et all, to (re)create the street between Cambridge and Congress. It was mothballed for two reasons: the Feds worried about traffic/pedestrians/buildings so close to the JFK tower and b/c part of the plan involved a land grab by Levanthal for a privately-operated hotel.

At the time, I was critical b/c I saw it as a private company getting a benefit for little or no cost. Now I think it's a great idea.
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Old 08-27-2013, 11:43 AM   #26
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Re: Government Center

I don't think "reknitting the urban fabric" is really the prime issue with Government Center. I mean, it's a gigantic plaza that you can walk through however you please. Who's it inhibiting movement for besides drivers? To me, the real issue with Government Center Plaza is that it just doesn't work as a plaza. One side might as well be a highway, two sides are blank office building walls, and the only the fourth has any sort of commercial use. The liklihood of the JFK building and City Hall getting ground floor retails is probably pretty slim, but why in hell hasn't the city pumped the plaza full of carts/food trucks/etc? We sit around arguing about infrastructure upgrades to the plaza, but for the most part, classic European Plazas are pretty bland as well. It's filling them with great retail that makes them successful.
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Old 08-27-2013, 12:01 PM   #27
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Re: Government Center

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It's filling them with great retail that makes them successful.
That's pretty much what "re-knitting the urban fabric" means, but also enclosing it more thoroughly so that the retail is closer in to the plaza. Thus, more buildings.
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Old 08-27-2013, 12:02 PM   #28
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Re: Government Center

Right. The biggest problem with CH plaza is that it doesn't function like an outdoor room like European plazas do. You would need to build a long, slim building (or preferably a series of buildings) on the City Hall side of Cambridge St and build another row of buildings in between the JFK building and City Hall, which is never going to happen unless the GSA sells the JFK. The Sears Crescent side is almost perfect as is.

Despite many opinions to the contrary, City Hall itself functions pretty well as a monument building (though it could use some changes on the ground level.)

edit: I should probably read more than the last two posts before replying. Ugh.

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Old 08-27-2013, 12:35 PM   #29
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Re: Government Center

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Originally Posted by Shepard View Post
That's pretty much what "re-knitting the urban fabric" means, but also enclosing it more thoroughly so that the retail is closer in to the plaza. Thus, more buildings.
Yeah, I more or less agree. I think the only difference is over the meaning of a loosely defined term. I take "re-knit urban fabric" to be more about downsizing super block street grids to improve circulation, but yeah, ground level interaction is definitely a crucial component. I'm not 100% sold on the need for construction in there though. It just needs to be filled with enough stuff to feel appropriately scaled. When it comes down to it, I'm not sure City Hall Plaza is any bigger than a Plaza Navarona or Piaza del Campo. Eventually, a building along Cambridge St would be an improvement, but in the meantime, fill that suckers up with tents, trucks, and carts, and it'd be a 1000x improvement.
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Old 08-27-2013, 02:16 PM   #30
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Re: Government Center

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Originally Posted by JohnAKeith View Post
Surely someone here can pull the docs on the '00s proposal by Norman Levanthal, et all, to (re)create the street between Cambridge and Congress. It was mothballed for two reasons: the Feds worried about traffic/pedestrians/buildings so close to the JFK tower and b/c part of the plan involved a land grab by Levanthal for a privately-operated hotel.

At the time, I was critical b/c I saw it as a private company getting a benefit for little or no cost. Now I think it's a great idea.
Not entirely correct. Leventhal headed a Trust that was set up to work with the City to explore options for City Hall Plaza. The plan that resulted, among other things, would have created a parcel for a private hotel adjacent to the Federal Building along a restored Hanover Street reconnecting to Cambridge Street. Carpenter & Company was selected in 1997 after an RFP process to develop the hotel. A joint venture of Beal Companies/Intercontinental Hotels also sought competed for the development rights. The Feds killed the project because of the concerns you cited, along with Beacon Hill neighbors fraught with NIMBY disease. The use of public property for a private purpose was also mentioned, but really as more of a pretext by the Feds and those who feared development in the area.
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Old 08-27-2013, 02:19 PM   #31
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Re: Government Center

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Originally Posted by underground View Post
When it comes down to it, I'm not sure City Hall Plaza is any bigger than a Plaza Navarona or Piaza del Campo. Eventually, a building along Cambridge St would be an improvement, but in the meantime, fill that suckers up with tents, trucks, and carts, and it'd be a 1000x improvement.
I think Piazza del Compo and City Hall Plaza are about the same size. Navona is longer and narrow so it's a little tougher to compare the two. And Piazza del Compo is a great comparison because it's not some urban green oasis - it's all bricks but it gets brought to life with food vendors and markets and a ring of active uses around its edge. The City should fill the plaza with uses every single day, but I lean away from uses like the Big Apple Circus that take over the plaza for multiple days.
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Old 08-27-2013, 03:55 PM   #32
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Re: Government Center

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Originally Posted by dirtywater View Post
Not entirely correct. Leventhal headed a Trust that was set up to work with the City to explore options for City Hall Plaza. The plan that resulted, among other things, would have created a parcel for a private hotel adjacent to the Federal Building along a restored Hanover Street reconnecting to Cambridge Street. Carpenter & Company was selected in 1997 after an RFP process to develop the hotel. A joint venture of Beal Companies/Intercontinental Hotels also sought competed for the development rights. The Feds killed the project because of the concerns you cited, along with Beacon Hill neighbors fraught with NIMBY disease. The use of public property for a private purpose was also mentioned, but really as more of a pretext by the Feds and those who feared development in the area.
And yet, there are two very large residential buildings proposed for the North Station area immediately adjacent to the O'Neill Building.
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Old 09-16-2013, 09:19 AM   #33
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Re: Government Center

Surprised I haven't seen this posted yet:
http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion..._redevelopment
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Old 09-16-2013, 01:41 PM   #34
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Re: Government Center

Posting the Herald story b/c they put everything behind pay walls after 14 days.

Marty Walsh pushes City Hall redevelopment
Monday, September 16, 2013
By: Chris Cassidy

Quote:
Mayoral candidate state Rep. Martin J. Walsh is pushing a dramatic downtown development plan that would put a new City Hall under private ownership and open up Boston’s most coveted site to a hotel, apartments and stores.

“You could put a hotel boutique here. You could put a full hotel here. You could have an office building. You could put so much in this area,” Walsh told the Herald while walking through the vast, deserted brick plaza yesterday morning. “We could have shops … that would fit in with 
Faneuil Hall Marketplace.”

The Dorchester Dem*ocrat’s plan, which he 
unveiled exclusively to the Herald yesterday, involves bulldozing much-maligned Government Center — a concrete fortress built in 1967 that some critics liken to an ugly intergalactic spaceship.

The city would sell the site to a commercial developer to build a mixed-use project likely to include a hotel, offices, residences and retail. The sale could fetch a price of between $125 million and $150 million and annual taxes of between $10 million and $15 million, Walsh said.

It also would remove the hulking obstacle to views of Faneuil Hall and the North End, allow the city to possibly connect Hanover and Cambridge streets and 
allow pedestrians to easily stroll from Faneuil Hall to the Common and Downtown Crossing, Walsh said.

“We’re creating revenue, we’re connecting the city, creating green space, open space, and it’ll help again, much like when City Hall was built in the ’60s, allow us an economic engine for that neighborhood,” he said.

The Walsh campaign estimated that developing Government Center would create approximately 500
permanent jobs and 
between 600 and 800 full-time construction jobs. Walsh — considered a top-tier candidate in a crowded 12-way race where the contenders are scrambling to distinguish themselves before next Tuesday’s preliminary vote — is backed by key unions, including carpenters, ironworkers and electrical workers, who likely would benefit under the plan.

The project would make the area a 24/7 economic anchor and help recover business — particularly nightspot dollars — lost to the wildly popular Seaport, Walsh said.

Meanwhile, Walsh would relocate City Hall to either
a public or private site somewhere in the area of Government Center, the 
Financial District and Downtown Crossing.

“We’re not talking about the South Boston waterfront,” Walsh said, referring to a short-lived plan by Mayor Thomas M. 
Menino. “I want to keep it right where the residents of Boston can access it. 
Listen, I don’t need an 
ocean*front view as mayor 
of the city of Boston.”

Possible public sites Walsh mentioned include the parking garage in Winthrop Square, the A-1 police station on New Sudbury Street and the School Dep*artment building on Court Street. The China Trade Center also is a potential site, the campaign said.

Under Walsh’s plan, a private developer would site, build, own and operate a privately financed City Hall, and receive a fixed return of about $5 million
to $7 million annually on a 20- to 40-year lease, 
after which the building and property ownership would revert back to the city for $1. The city would not have to spend a penny on construction or a mortgage for the building, and would enjoy cost savings in areas such as maintenance and security that would be handled by the private company rather than the city — as well as taking in $5 million to $6 million annually in property taxes from its new privately owned City Hall, the campaign estimates.

“We will not do private tax incentives on that building,” Walsh said, “so there will be no special deals, no special permitting.”

Proceeds from the proposal would help fund 
a three-year plan to pro*-
vide full-day kindergarten for all 8,000 4-year-olds 
in the city. Some $23 million would be used in the first year, Walsh said.

Revenue also would be used to revamp and restore city-owned parks as well as to help fund the arts, 
including creating a Cabinet-level arts commissioner position within City Hall.

Walsh pledged to put his City Hall plan into action within the first 90 days of his administration. He also vowed a death date for the great gray monstrosity at Government Center.

“Before I get re-elected as mayor,” Walsh said, “I’m hoping to be in the new building.”
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Old 09-16-2013, 02:00 PM   #35
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Re: Government Center

For those looking for a 1000-footer, this could be the spot. The city would be motivated to approve a supertall to get the best price for the space.

Addendum to the Walsh plan - the City should lease back space in the replacement building as offices.
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Old 09-16-2013, 02:30 PM   #36
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Re: Government Center

As much as I would want Scollay Square back, I do not trust anyone in the next ten years to be able to properly do so.

I also have major issues with a private interest maintaining and overseeing City Hall and any other city offices.
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Old 09-16-2013, 02:45 PM   #37
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Re: Government Center

Lots of government agencies lease space. What is it about municipal government that is different from any other enterprise that requires it to own and maintain its own space? It has been demonstrated time and again that governments are terrible stewards of fixed assets because budget writers/politicians love new stuff and dislike maintenance. Why not leave maintenance and depreciation in the hands of people who manage it very well? Why not be flexible in space and get the space that suits your business? Why not keep your options open to move if you feel like you don't have a competitive rate?
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Old 09-16-2013, 02:53 PM   #38
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Walsh's plan for city hall

Story here


My gut reaction is that leasing space for 20-40 years is going to be a substantial drain on the city coffers after that initial cash infusion - even at a fixed rate. I wouldn't mind some sort of public/private partnership to revamp city hall and government center (I'm agnostic on the architectural merits of the concrete structure), but this plan seems somewhat sketchy to me, and that this has a lot of potential to go seriously wrong if the market happens to tank during the process. it would be better if property was transferred to the city immediately.

Also - shouldn't city hall be a central iconic civic building? I really worry that Walsh is going to have his fingers in a lot more projects than Menino ever dreamed of - and knowing who he is aligned with, I'm worried that we'll end up with something uglier and blander than the much maligned brutalist structure. His association with the "bridging forest hills" crowd is very troubling.

Any thoughts?

(Also - little city halls? Is Arroyo serious?)
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Old 09-16-2013, 03:31 PM   #39
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Re: Government Center

I love the plan because I hate city hall plaza. Is there a way they could build on the site before you'd have to remove city hall? That would save a ton of money. It would be great if the city laid out the whole plan in terms of what can be built (i.e. this is the street grid, this is the height limit, this is the number of buildings and pre-approve it). Then city hall becomes a tenant in the base of a tower at cost for the effective life of the tower (100 years?) and the developer just starts on the rest from there.

It would show some strong vision for the mayor and kill many birds with one stone. Activate a space every day of the year rather than the 50-60 when there is an event (only 5-10 of which really pack in crowds). Fund an important school program that I personally think is a worthy cause. Reknit a great street grid. Create more housing and jobs as well as a new city hall built for the 21st Century.

Mike Ross' stated opposition to this turns me against him. He said it comes up every now and then and nothing happens. Not a real vision there and if you can't imagine Boston having a new city hall by 2020 that's a shame. Either way something has to happen. Unfortunately i live in the far flung suburb of Somerville and can't vote
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Old 09-16-2013, 03:37 PM   #40
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Re: Government Center

Quote:
Originally Posted by Semass View Post
Lots of government agencies lease space. What is it about municipal government that is different from any other enterprise that requires it to own and maintain its own space? It has been demonstrated time and again that governments are terrible stewards of fixed assets because budget writers/politicians love new stuff and dislike maintenance. Why not leave maintenance and depreciation in the hands of people who manage it very well? Why not be flexible in space and get the space that suits your business? Why not keep your options open to move if you feel like you don't have a competitive rate?
Government isn't exactly the same thing as a business - it needs to be in a central and identifiable location that is accessible by the public. It's very grounded in place, whereas those who lease commercial RE aren't concerned about their building as a civic icon.

There's something very unsettling about our government services no longer being in a publicly owned building. I think we need that civic icon and space and for it to be publicly owned - even if not all government agencies are housed there. It would be as if we'd have to get through this private owner to get to our own government.
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