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Barren, sunbaked and windswept downtown plaza to get lots more trees, a waterfall and a playground

Rendering of new City Hall Plaza

Mayor Marty Walsh today announced a $70-million re-do of the seven-acre brick desert known as City Hall Plaza that will include "21st century civic amenities like shady seating and gathering areas, a destination play space, public art space and an iconic water feature."

Part of the plaza once had a fountain, but it was filled in with concrete after the water started leaking onto the Green Line below.

The plans announced by Walsh also include re-opening the long shuttered second-floor plaza carved underneath City Hall.

The renovation also includes 3,000 new welcoming spaces for residents to sit, 12,000 square feet of playscapes for children and families, and 11,000 square feet of terraces for pop-up play and interactive public art. ...

The renovation includes creating seven new "plug and play" locations for community groups to utilize, with space for 10,000 - 12,0000 visitors on the main Plaza, and room for a 20,000 - 25,000 person gathering on the entire Plaza.

The new design will also include three smaller event and gathering places, and a new civic building on Congress Street, equipped with a bathroom and other facilities to support public gatherings.

The plaza will also be designed with climate-change-driven downpours in mind:

The renovation includes an increase in permeable surfaces that will soak up stormwater, planning ahead for severe weather in downtown Boston.

People interested in learning more can attend a meeting on the renovation tomorrow at 6 p.m. on City Hall's third floor. A boston.gov page has more info and renderings.

City Hall playground

Congress Street side:

City Hall Plaza from Congress Street
Neighborhoods: 
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Comments

this city plant a lot of trees and then not ever water them. That tends not to work so well (as in, they die.)

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Voting closed 24

City Hall Plaza should be 100% ADA accessible Completely agree. However, when it comes to plaza uses, its best use is its current use, a large congregational site that can accommodate a variety of events. Besides, most of the proposed trees and fountains in this plan would puncture the garages and trolley tunnels underneath the plaza.

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needs to be told the best time to plant a tree so it remains viable is in the fall, not the middle of summer when it’s 90 degree and no rain in site. The contractors who plant the trees install Arbor Rain bags but never water them taking a chance that they’re not called back on warranty.

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I thought all proposed projects had to be called vibrant.

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Voting closed 18

This project gets an exception due to actual vibrations from the Green Line.

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Banks and banks of public restrooms, that are actually maintained, would be a marvelous addition to this project. There cannot be enough, given extent of tourism in this area.

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Voting closed 29

I like all the trees. There's no need for a playground. That's bush league.

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Voting closed 11

City Hall has daycare as well as a number of other buildings in that area.

The playground will be well used.

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How can the plaza have permeable surfaces when the green line, blue line, several abandoned tunnels, and the City Hall garage are underneath it? Unless there's going to be a subsurface drainage system to some dry-wells?

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A look back: Boston’s City Hall Plaza
IMAGE(https://c.o0bc.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/64d65c5c-213d-11e3-a62e-e4e3c9802086.jpg)
The terraced waterfall was dedicated in September 1969 but soon experienced problems when the filtration system failed shortly after the opening and the fountain spewed green and brown foam. That problem got fixed, but trouble again developed when water began leaking into the subway tunnel below. It was shut for good in 1977.

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Voting closed 32

I'd have to assume that in the current era of dancing colorful fountains set to music that in 40+ years there have been more than a few advancements in the plumbing and filtration world.

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is a cliche adage, but often accurate. I'd trust an analog fountain built in the Victorian Era to last longer than a "colorful fountain set to music" in the 2010s. Of course, like everything else in City Hall Plaza, the fountain they had there was built at the apparent nadir of American design, so it's unsurprising it barely hobbled along for a decade.

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Sasaki was brought into this project late after the former architects botched it. Alot of the proposed stuff doesn't work and Sasaki knows it. They're just trying to wrap up the larger plan effort and then carry on with some of their realistic interventions (more perimeter trees, better ADA access, better signage, better lighting, etc.)

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Voting closed 10

Fill it in with streets and buildings or forget about it.

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Voting closed 18

On behalf of your favorite constituents suburban skate borders and graffiti artists.

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Their plan seems to be to turn it into a modified green space with a playground and public art. Boston already has the Esplanade, the Greenway, the Common/Public Garden, Lawn on D. This is going to be like those, just not as good.

Instead they should make this into a slightly offbeat attraction, something to do that doesn’t revolve around food and drink (we got plenty of those too) appeals to a certain niche of people but is considered a destination for everyone even if it serves as nothing more than people watching.

Maybe it could be an outdoor gym, like Boston’s equivalent of Muscle Beach. Or maybe it could be devoted to engineers, building virtual reality stuff and playing video games. Or it could be a farm where a few people have to live off the land there, and people could go in and help or ask questions, like a new age Plymouth Plantation. Or just keep it how it is, add the electrical and plumbing infrastructure, and hold more offbeat events there to go along with the concerts and Christmas event. Years ago I walked by and the Phantom Gourmet guys had brought in sand, served alcohol, and had a bunch of food trucks competing over the best ribs. It brought in a bunch of people from out of town dressed up in purple. Do more quirky stuff like that.

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Boston's "Muscle Beach" is Revere Beach.

And to suggest that we already have the Greenway so what we really need is more Andelman Brothers events is...well...I really have to question whether you left the "/s" off your original post by accident.

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Let us not waste any more money on this waste land. $70 million would go a long way to fix other parks, schools and maybe universal pre K.. How about if the city sold the whole plaza and city hall? or maybe Mayor Walsh could come up with another plan to fix it in two years. The mayor had 2 promises among others when he ran the first time. Fix the plaza and get rid of the BRA. still waiting.

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Just let a bank festoon it with logos.
Zuffolk Construction owes the city some appreciation for contracts, no?
Where do angry mobs gather en masse to protest city gubmint?
On playground equipment?

An expensively polished turd ain't worth it.

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Except for the playground, this is how the plaza used to look in the 70s. There was a fountain, trees, flowers and the very 70s globe-like streetlights were attractive. People used to linger and eat their lunch there. It wasn't always barren.

Some photos when it was nice:

www.flickr.com/photos/usnationalarchives/3953594910

www.flickr.com/photos/usnationalarchives/3952815135/in/photostream/

www.flickr.com/photos/usnationalarchives/3952814767/in/photostream/

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Those look like staged photographs set in the 1970's. Today it would be nervous millenials scrolling through their cell phones.

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Well this will sure keep down the protests at the JFK building.
Not that anyone's upset about the way things are going...

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20 years overdue but A-(expletive)-MEN!

I am genuinely excited!!

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Even though it might seem to be a waste 99% of the time, there is real civic value in having an outdoor place where thousands of people can come together. Duck boats have replaced sporting win celebrations, but there are times when a big open space is needed. (The Scooper Bowl is there this week.)

The descriptions make it sound like there will still be accommodation for the occasional big gathering. I hope that is true.

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the boston common?

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There are gatherings that use heavy equipment at City Hall plaza. Probably not ideal for the grass of the Common.

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the plaza needs to go, the building as well. But neither will happen since no one in city government has the will of the vision.

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There are an unfortunately large number of cities who have downtowns that consist substantially of parking lots; take a look at Providence on Google Maps Satellite for instance. While having a third of your city made entirely of flat hardscape is great for temporary pop-up events like PVDFest (this weekend!), it doesn't add a whole lot. And City Hall Plaza is actually much WORSE than a parking lot - it consists of many awkward levels that have to be worked around, and has weight limits imposed by the tunnels (and fountain) underneath. It's less a parking lot over dirt than a rubble pile over catacombs.

With a little more effort, things like the Scooper Bowl could probably set up safely on green space like the Common. Boston Calling works to preserve the grass and turf of the Harvard Athletic Fields despite having stages, crowds, food stalls, and a Ferris wheel. Owl's Nest put down wood chips to minimize people tearing into the Esplanade. It's doable.

And really, the unobstructed flat-ish part of the Plaza is only about 350'x330' (JFK to the T, Cambridge St. to the 2nd "step"). If you need an actually flat, really resilient paved lot for specific events, barring parking for a couple days at the Nashua St. lot next to North Station gives you a rectangle roughly 550'x300' directly adjacent to public transit. And the nearby Cross Street Parking Lot in the North End is about 200'x200' itself.

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We have an esplanade, the Common, greenway, trade center, etc.

This is an ugly, rarely used eyesore that's a scorched earth desert in the summer. Having greenspace that keeps it cool and pleasing to the eye will also help any businesses that overlook City Hall. Expect a string of bars and restaurants to follow and "voila!" you've got yourself a vibrant little area that only increases Boston'a appeal.

This plan will be far more beneficial than an empty lot that exists solely for hot dog eating contests or ice cream socials.

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says the plans will still allow for a public gathering space that would accommodate 12,000 people. It mentioned the current configuration allows for up to crowds of 40,000 -- a figure not seen since the Celtics celebrations of the 1980s.

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The Globe may want to recheck their numbers

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How many times? How many times will someone throw money at lipstick for this pig, only to find out that the problem goes much deeper?

The entire complex is fundamentally flawed. For all the preservationists talking about how City Hall must stay as an exemplar of Brutalism, keep in mind it's the centerpiece of a larger work of art, which was the Plaza - and between the fountain being capped, the headhouse being demolished, and now this "activated space", any artistic integrity there is out the window. City Hall was also designed as a civic building for a different era, where in-person government business required more space, personnel, and paper than it does today. In addition, the "blank slate" of the Plaza is actually substandard for all of its current uses, and doesn't even come close to actualizing the intended Piazza del Campo effect, as Aaron Helfand pointed out in his Master's thesis. Might as well rip this band-aid off, and get rid of the whole thing. From the ashes of Scollay Square it was born, and to the ashes it shall return.

The current Plaza is a horrible waste, but it doesn't have to be. It has some amazing attributes: it all appears to be within the ~725-775' FAA zoning range, and due to its location and our hemisphere, I don't think could ever cast a shadow on the Common. From Sudbury St. to the Sears Crescent and from Cambridge St. to Congress St. it's about 900' by 700'. The parcel sits directly on top of the Green, Blue, and Orange lines, and is in a good position for either the CAT or Congress St. NSRL alignments. It's on terra firma, not fill soil. And, the best attribute for radical redevelopment - almost everyone hates it the way it is now.

You could fit something like 6 Prudential Towers' worth of buildings on the current spot, and renovate the subsurface into a single megastation for almost every train line. It's an opportunity to do a (hopefully better) combination of NYC's Hudson Yards and Oculus projects. In fact, the amount of land here is almost exactly the same square footage as Hudson Yards. You could still retain outdoor, concert, or general community space, only actually designed with that in mind instead of shoehorned in as an afterthought. It could be glorious.

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Love the idea. We don't have the collective will for that kind of creative thinking.

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I know it'll never happen (we're gonna get proposals for fountains, grass patches, and small coffee shops every two years forever), but one would hope that the insanely lucrative development rights - center of the city, multiple towers, unusually tall, on land - could motivate something like this more than, say, the mixed challenges of the Pike air rights parcels.

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Building on the plaza would be like building on the roof of a mega-structure. The plaza is a roof. It was not designed to carry new buildings. This is the mistake architects, politicians, citizens repeat every year since 1969: They forget: The Plaza is a Roof. The Plaza is a Roof. The Plaza is a Roof...

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Where I talked about the subsurface as part of that project? I'm not saying just plop down stupid crap like buildings, a Ferris wheel, or a fountain on top of the existing stuff, I'm talking a redesign from the actual ground (below the tunnels) up.

Besides... you do know that Hudson Yards itself consists of towers decked over a train yard, right? A roof isn't an insurmountable obstacle.

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The actual tracks at Hudson Yards were built and spaced to accommodate new development above them. The garage-tunnel-yard-station configuration under Boston City Hall Plaza (and the plaza itself) were not. You could still build on the plaza, but it would be more expensive than building above the Big Dig. Your idea is d.o.a.

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The intention was that Hudson Yards would hold supertall structures way back in the 80s. Boston City Hall is much much different. There are layers upon layers of existing infrastructure under the plaza, not terra firma. Boston might as well build over the entirety of I-90 and parts of I-93 before attempting to build on the plaza.

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A wheel! A big wheel!
Hub of the Universe (Get in on the branding, Adam.)
Bruins logo
Whatever crap you want to sell on the sides of the wheel!
London, Montréal... we need a wheel, too!

Countersink it next to the Blue Line for underground action views.

G

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Walk the Ferris Trail to all of Wheeltown's historical sites! See where Paul Revere hung his lantern, "clockwise if by land, counterclockwise if by sea". Re-enact the Boston Wheel Party and watch the tea enter, exit, and then reenter the harbor! If you time it just right and are at the top, you can see the Sox hit one out of Ferrisway Park! Among the many locations you can find these artifacts are:

Long Wharf:
IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/WxG787N.jpg)

Charlestown Navy Yard
IMAGE(https://www.universalhub.com/files/styles/main_image/public/new/navy-wheel_0.jpg)

City Hall Plaza
IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/qnoNVvY.jpg)

Museum of Science
IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/D0sf1f5.jpg)

Harvard Athletic Fields
IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/FOlrwpN.jpg)

North Point Park
IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/oMIrbo1.jpg)

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The baby wheel in the harbor

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.

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sixty years in the making!

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a break on my real estate tax.

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use the word 'iconic' as a description for everything? Especially when the thing being described doesn't even exist yet.

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A little too iconic... and yeah, I really do think.

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Wow, I didn't know our city had 70 million dollars to burn like this. I guess all the other city needs have been funded as well.

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And, I predict this goes over budget due to shoddy workmanship and graft.

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