Developer Robert Korff has filed detailed plans for a 27-story hotel in Kenmore Square that would feature a new plaza in the middle of what is now one of the city's busiest intersections - with his hotel and a half-acre of public outdoor space in the middle.
Korff says his plans - which include him spending roughly $15 million to realign the square's current roads - would turn a car-dominated expanse of asphalt into a place where people could stroll and bike under shade trees. It would also mean a nice new entrance for the 389-room hotel right on the plaza.
The resulting Project serves as a unique opportunity to redefine the heart of Kenmore Square. It will activate a critical flashpoint for the city’s cultural life and will form a more distinctive gateway to the Back Bay and downtown from Greater Boston’s western reaches. By reorganizing the street system, pedestrian and bicyclist safety will be improved without worsening traffic congestion. The new public plaza will provide a new public gathering space in Kenmore Square and accommodate the crowds that pass through the square on Red Sox game days.
People walking on a plaza instead of scurrying across the intersection trying to beat the light:
If the BPDA and the Zoning Board of Appeal approve the plans, Korff would hire contractors to turn the current intersection at the heart of the square into more of a large rotary. Instead of making one left turn to get onto Beacon Street as at present, motorists would have to go just beyond his new plaza, turn left, then turn right. Motorists heading inbound on Comm. Ave., would no longer have a straight shot through the square, but would instead have to turn right before the plaza, then left to continue towards the Back Bay.
Despite some recent streetscape improvements, Kenmore Square is still an unwelcoming place for people walking. Public space is tight - there's no real "square" in the square - and pedestrians must wait a long time to cross some very wide streets. Due to the complicated main intersection, a full signal cycle takes almost two minutes and then rushes pedestrians across seven lanes of fast-moving traffic. Cyclists, too, face dangerous challenges as they try to negotiate this key commuter route.
As has been learned in other cities, simplifying the intersection by cutting redundant roadway can vastly improve the pedestrian experience without worsening traffic congestion. Such changes can also make new public spaces for people walking and biking.
In Kenmore Square, these changes are made possible by the redevelopment of the current "flatiron" site owned by the Proponent. Moving this building footprint sets the stage for a simpler and slimmer street configuration, and an urban design that responds to community concerns about the impacts of growth.
The current site houses a Citizens Bank branch, which would be torn down. The bank would be offered space in the new building.
In addition to this proposal, Kenmore Square could be getting a new look with Related Beal's proposal to re-do the block topped by the Citgo Sign. BU is planning a 19-story building a couple blocks west on Comm. Ave.
Proposed view from Kenmore Square:
Proposed view from Comm. Ave.
Proposed setting sun over the new Kenmore Square:
Kenmore hotel draft impact report (52M PDF).