The North End/Waterfront Residents’ Association invited Peter Gori from the Boston Redevelopment Authority to talk about the planned changes for Cross Street’s sidewalk reconfiguration. John Romano also assisted Mr. Gori from MassDOT’s perspective which owns these properties. MassDOT (Mass. Dept of Transportation) is the new combined organization that absorbed MassPike and other state transportation agencies).
Gori explained that a “woonerf” is an area where pedestrians and vehicles share the space. John Romano reviewed history of how the area was planned years ago during the Big Dig. Residents wanted sidewalk space and parking. Businesses wanted a throughway for delivery and customer parking. Thus, he maintained the space was planned for shared use. To the north of Hanover St., Goody Glovers, Maria’s Pastry and Joe Pace’s all have tables outside. Goody Glover’s has a liquor license including outdoor seating.
The current discussion involves the sidewalk area in front of the old Martignetti Liquors location. A primary issue is the placement of new outdoor patio tables. The BRA plan calls for 78 seats. Currently, MassPike has granted Nick’s Deli a permit for 4 tables (16 seats), though he put out the wrong tables (round, instead of narrow rectangular) according to the BRA. Cafe Graffiti is expected to apply for 46 seats which will be gated as required for alcohol service. DePasquale’s Pasta shop is expected to share patio seats with Nick’s Deli because the pasta shop has more frontage space, according to Gori. At the last NEWNC meeting, this was a point of contention as the council questioned the need for seats outside a retail pasta shop. DePasquale has also requested 16 seats (4 tables) on the corner of Hanover and Cross Streets to support his GiGi’s Gelateria. These seats would also be open to the public.
Confusion reigned with regards to the roadway and parking on the plaza area. The BRA insists the roadway needs to stay to provide a throughway to the businesses on the other side of Salem Street, such as Pace and Maria’s Pastry. Gori indicated the pedestrian walkway will be have 3 feet from the planned tables to the Freedom Trail. Parking is currently shared commercial with 15 minute parking, turning to residential parking after 6pm. Inside the bollards, the BRA proposes to eliminate 16 parking spots out of the 32 along both blocks of Cross Street. Parking on one side of the bollards would be commercial turning to residential after 6pm.
State Representative Aaron Michlewitz spoke about replacing the parking with spaces on Cross Street, such as the taxi stand. He also questioned whether the seating is permanent to which Gori responded that it is seasonal, generally April to October. Michlewitz has spoken with BTD Commissioner Timlin and they will be doing a walkthrough of the area. He invited others to join him by calling his office.
Residents generally rejected the BRA’s stated need for a roadway and did not support a vehicular lane through the sidewalk. David Kubiak, co-chair of NEWRA’s ZLC committee advocated for ending the mingling of pedestrians and vehicles. “The roadway does not work. Parking could be replaced on the outside of the sidewalk on Cross Street and should be resident parking at night. Outdoor seating is typically for establishments with indoor seating. Public seating at Hanover & Cross Streets won’t work because there is too much pedestrian traffic.” Kubiak believed there was support for outdoor seating for Cafe Grafitti and perhaps a few tables for the deli/pasta shop, depending if there was more room in the center area of the sidewalk.
Luigi from Café Grafitti said he will be opening as soon as next week and that outdoor seating for his cafe was part of his business plan for the long-term lease. Residents appeared to support outdoor seating there because of more room on the Salem Street corner of Cross Street.
According to Luigi, the plan to include a Freedom Trail mural/map on the brick wall by the Citizen’s ATM has been scrapped. He said that because plans for the mural are gone, he is looking at putting a non-commercial sign/map on the wall next to his cafe, something with “Welcome to the North End.”
NEWRA is preparing a letter to the BRA on the Cross Street sidewalk plan that will incorporate comments made at the meeting. Residents can send additional comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.