After two presentations by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, neighborhood residents are questioning the logic of the “woonerf” plan on Cross Street between Hanover and Salem Streets. Woonerf is a Dutch word for an area, usually residential, where motorists and other users share the street without boundaries such as lanes and curbs. This type of arrangement was popularized in the Netherlands and a more local example would be Commercial Street in Provincetown, MA.
For background on the plan itself, please see this previous post:
BRA Reveals Cross Street Plaza Plan at Former Martignetti’s Site
Comments on the plan were reviewed at this week’s ZLC (Zoning, Licensing and Construction committee of the North End/Waterfront Residents’ Association) meeting. The group is preparing a letter to the BRA and the property owner, MTA (Massachusetts Turnpike Authority). Representatives from other neighborhood groups, including NEWNC (North End/Waterfront Neighborhood Council) and the North End Central Artery Committee are also likely to join in this debate, perhaps through a joint letter from the neighborhood at large. The group will also contact the Freedom Trail Commission and WalkBoston that have vetted the plan through the BRA.
A repeated concern was that the area “has too much going on”. While nearly every aspect of the plan was identified to have room for improvement, the major items of interest were as follows:
- The plan should have more open space for pedestrians and fewer patio seats.
- The road through the plaza creates a serious conflict between vehicles and pedestrians. In addition to the safety concerns, it limits the pedestrian area to a small part of the overall space. The supposed need for commercial loadings should be otherwise handled, perhaps direct from Cross Street.
- The bollards should be moved outward, or eliminated, allowing for more space around the Freedom Trail for pedestrians. The BRA has indicated that moving the bollards is too expensive, an excuse dismissed by residents.
- The patio seats near Hanover Street should be eliminated entirely. It is unlikely these will be viewed as public seating, despite the intention. Further, the seating interferes with the primary pedestrian path through the corner on the Hanover Street side of Cross Street.
- Umbrellas and seating should be free of advertisements.
- Parking should not be allowed on interior of the plaza. If the roadway through the plaza is eliminated, then parking would be on the exterior/Cross Street side. The BRA’s plan is to allow short-term parking for deliveries and customer traffic during the day, turning over to resident parking at night.
It is expected that each business with dedicated outdoor patio seats will need to amend their licenses to allow such service. Only Finale had been approved for outdoor seating and they have withdrawn their plans from the site.