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View Poll Results: shouldn't they throw up a tower on one or two of the sections??
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Old 06-11-2015, 07:37 AM   #1
statler
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Proposed Center Plaza Renovation | Center Plaza | Government Center

This probably doesn't need it's own thread but it's interesting.

Quote:
Center Plaza, symbol of a rejected era, getting new look
Owner will spend about $20 million to improve roofline and streetscape, but bland facace will remain

By Jay Fitzgerald Globe Correspondent June 11, 2015

It’s one of many disappointing buildings from the controversial “urban renewal” era, 1,000 feet of red brick and thick concrete window casements that look onto the widely despised bloc of Brutalist architecture known as Boston City Hall and its empty plaza.

Even the architect in charge of renovating Center Plaza, Haril Pandya, acknowledges the crescent-shaped building suffers from a “long relentless façade” and exists largely as “something to get through and not go to.”

But Pandya’s client, Shorenstein Properties, says it will spend about $20 million to renovate the nine-story office-and-retail building, the result of which will be . . . 1,000 feet of red brick and thick concrete window casements.

Stuck with a challenging façade that would be prohibitively expensive to remove or to change substantially, Shorenstein is concentrating on fixing other problematic aspects of Center Plaza, namely its cavernous street-level arcade, a dark and dank space that feels more like a parking garage than an open-air pedestrian walkway.

“The whole experience is tired and dated,” said Kevin Kuzemchak, senior vice president at Shorenstein.
To turn the street-level portion of Center Plaza into a “true destination,” Kuzemchak said, the company plans to install new pavers, benches, lighting, and greenery to make it “more like an outdoor veranda.”

The retail mix will also change, with more locally owned restaurants, higher-end shops, and maybe even venues with live music.

“We’re absolutely convinced it has a lot of potential,” Kuzemchak said.

Center Plaza was built by the Leventhal family in stages in the late 1960s, when the urban renewal movement was replacing whole neighborhoods of the older, small-scale wood-frame buildings that characterized Boston with brawny boxes of brick, concrete, and stone. Back then, the new office complex — it includes One, Two, and Three Center Plaza, all interconnected — was well-received, though Walter Muir Whitehill, former director of the Boston Anthenaeum and a writer, once described it as a “skyscraper mercifully laid on its side.”

The architecture from that period has been much criticized, but it still has fans.

“A lot of buildings from that era get a bad rap,” said Tim Love, president of the Boston Society of Architects and a principal at the architecture firm Utile. “You can take these much-maligned buildings and make it turn out quite well. They just need a little tender, loving care.”

Maria Bellalta, the dean of landscape architecture at Boston Architectural College, said Shorenstein has an opportunity to turn Center Plaza into a more sightly complex.

“It has a sort of nice shape, but it’s still very bland,” she said.

Shorenstein, which bought Center Plaza from Blackstone Group for $307 million in 2013, is focusing its redevelopment effort on the top and bottom of the building.

The most visible change would be at the roofline. Center Plaza has top-floor offices toward the back that can’t readily be seen from the street; the front of the roofline, along Cambridge Street, is empty. Here, Pandya proposes adding about 20,000 square feet of glass boxes that would be “really amazing office spaces.”

The top of the building would be dotted with open roof gardens that he said would provide a “majestic view” of downtown, the North End, and beyond.

The façade, though, isn’t going anywhere.

Pandya, a principal at CBT Architects, said he was also retained by Blackstone when it owned Center Plaza, and he drew up a proposed redesign in 2007. Pandya said he toyed with having glass or metal panels on the exterior, rather than brick, and possibly making the windows larger. But the striking curved front could not be eliminated without a near-total demolition of the entire complex, and Pandya said that Blackstone concluded it was just too expensive and not worth the effort.

“At the end of the day, we said it’s not really the façade that needs to be better. It’s the whole experience that needs to be better,’” Pandya said.

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Old 06-11-2015, 07:50 AM   #2
Suffolk 83
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Re: Center Plaza Renovation | Center Plaza | Government Center

For whatever reason, I don't hate 1-2-3 centre plaza but I agree we'd be better off without it. This just makes this building worse because now it's not going to significantly change for a long time. I'd like to see them knock part of it down to reduce the wall effect and build a tower or two on top of portions.
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Old 06-11-2015, 08:55 AM   #3
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Re: Center Plaza Renovation | Center Plaza | Government Center

I agree that they should demolish part of it -- particularly to open up a view of the Adams Courthouse.
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Old 06-11-2015, 09:29 AM   #4
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Re: Center Plaza Renovation | Center Plaza | Government Center

A $20 million dollar renovation is nothing and won't prevent this site getting redeveloped eventually. I'll take it; anything to improve that area.
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Old 06-11-2015, 11:18 AM   #5
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Re: Center Plaza Renovation | Center Plaza | Government Center

^Yea i mostly agree, i doubt theyd do anything within 10 years of the reno tho, it'd be nice to have that happen more short term
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Old 06-11-2015, 12:47 PM   #6
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Re: Center Plaza Renovation | Center Plaza | Government Center

I also agree about tearing this thing down and replacing it with towers. It's a huge wall/barrier that only adds to the unpleasant experience of the plaza.

Would be nice to have some sort of connection between City Hall and the Courthouse flanked by two towers (if that's even possible).
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Old 06-11-2015, 01:16 PM   #7
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Re: Center Plaza Renovation | Center Plaza | Government Center

The biggest loss to me is of the courthouse view from Government Center. This site needs to be tacked on to whatever redo they do to the plaza, to make sure that whatever open space is left provides a view corridor from City Hall to the courthouse (with the new GC Headhouse in the middle).
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Old 06-11-2015, 02:23 PM   #8
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Re: Center Plaza Renovation | Center Plaza | Government Center

I cannot imagine what the experience of dining, as shown in that rendering above, would be like in that setting. The street is quiet later at night but during the early evening it always seems very busy.
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Old 06-11-2015, 02:44 PM   #9
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Re: Center Plaza Renovation | Center Plaza | Government Center

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Originally Posted by joebos View Post
I cannot imagine what the experience of dining, as shown in that rendering above, would be like in that setting. The street is quiet later at night but during the early evening it always seems very busy.
Probably about like the experience of dining on the sidewalk at Brasserie JO on Huntington Avenue -- HORRIBLE.
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Old 06-11-2015, 02:50 PM   #10
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Re: Center Plaza Renovation | Center Plaza | Government Center

Kinsale already has outdoor dining as shown. I have eaten there a few times. It's fine.
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Old 06-11-2015, 04:50 PM   #11
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Re: Center Plaza Renovation | Center Plaza | Government Center

ditto^
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Old 06-11-2015, 05:50 PM   #12
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Re: Center Plaza Renovation | Center Plaza | Government Center

That second rendering actually looks like a nice place to grab a bite to eat.
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Old 06-11-2015, 07:52 PM   #13
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Re: Center Plaza Renovation | Center Plaza | Government Center

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Originally Posted by stick n move View Post
That second rendering actually looks like a nice place to grab a bite to eat.
I just really wish they'd cut this building into pieces to let some air into the space behind it, and expose the beautiful old courthouse. That entire area around Suffolk is so totally walled off by buildings, you might not even know it was there but geographically it's a major chunk of Beacon Hill.
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Old 06-12-2015, 08:24 AM   #14
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Re: Center Plaza Renovation | Center Plaza | Government Center

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Originally Posted by FK4 View Post
I just really wish they'd cut this building into pieces to let some air into the space behind it, and expose the beautiful old courthouse. That entire area around Suffolk is so totally walled off by buildings, you might not even know it was there but geographically it's a major chunk of Beacon Hill.
Agreed. I can't imagine they would ever knock the whole thing down, but I would love to see the floors above the cut-throughs that exist now go away and make the remaining 3 separate structures each a little taller.
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Old 06-13-2015, 07:11 AM   #15
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Re: Center Plaza Renovation | Center Plaza | Government Center

It's a shame the rear plaza is not being addressed. Granted that the courthouses need security, but I'd like to see Court Street reopened, with that section of Center Plaza demolished and a couple of taller, bookend buildings on either side of the Court St. This would allow for access to the rear plaza where a lot of great offerings can spill out of the higher floors or where a series of shops and eateries can be built, as shown on the Cambridge St. side.
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Old 06-14-2015, 12:35 PM   #16
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Re: Open Thread

Actually, I think it goes the other way. The colonnade (even if done in ugly, nasty Brutalist style) is one of the high points of traditional urban design. It provides a covered walkway, a real amenity in a less-than-mild weather environment like Boston. Ages ago, prior to the industrial age, ancient cities would spend generations building out colonnades and other forms of covered walkways. That was their version of 'transportation megaproject'.

I think the problem with those two examples comes not from the colonnade but from the width of the space in front. It's so big that it's easy to be walking there and not be cognizant of what's going on inside the building. Doesn't help that the Brutalist style also blocks a lot of the view. They're both wide enough to almost be a plaza, but they're not a plaza, because it's open-ended and too big.

E.g. we could keep the concrete at Government Center but it needs to be made into a smaller space by adding an active edge by the JFK building, narrowing Cambridge Street to make it friendly to cross, and turning the space into a clearly defined square.
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Old 06-14-2015, 03:01 PM   #17
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Re: Open Thread

Honestly, though the sidewalk is rather wide, and I dislike the brutalist aesthetic, Church Park seems to work just fine- the businesses seem to be doing well enough, and the overhang provides a nice shelter from the rain or shade on a hot day. (Focusing on this example because I live not too far from it and walk by pretty frequently)
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Old 06-19-2015, 09:07 PM   #18
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Re: Open Thread

The General Post Office building in Sydney is a pretty vibrant area from what ive noticed. I've walked past it on the Martin Place side, which is a pedestrian only street which helps. The building was re-purposed and now has a hotel on upper floors with restaurants, bars and shops on the lower floors.
https://www.google.com.au/maps/place...c0cb79!6m1!1e1
So the combination of a hotel, restaurants, bars and facing a ped-only street makes this a completely different example from Center Plaza. In my opinion the center plaza renovation will help a lot as far as the pedestrian is concerned but its ugly as hell because of its massing. It should be cut in half or broken up somehow
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Old 06-19-2015, 10:04 PM   #19
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Re: Open Thread

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Originally Posted by aaaaaa View Post

I'd love to see or hear of some effective urban colonnades if you can think of any off the top of your head (this is not a challenge but genuine interest and curiosity). Thanks in advance.
Italy would be my go-to choice for finding examples of well-done colonnades over the centuries, though other places have them too. Here's some I did a quick search to find:

Genova:


Roma:


Venezia:


I had to return my copy of Streets for People, there's a zillion examples contained in there... alas.
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Old 06-19-2015, 10:10 PM   #20
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Re: Open Thread

^ Matthew, that's a good post that really should be in the Center Plaza thread.

Edit: Actually, the whole colonnade discussion going on here should probably get moved there. It's valuable discussion.
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