The Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA), in collaboration with other City of Boston departments, invited the Downtown and Chinatown community on Thursday, October 24 to participate in the PLAN: Downtown Community Priorities Workshop.
Participants were updated on the planning work completed to date, while exploring preliminary recommendations and public space improvements identified by PLAN: Downtown. With themes focusing on growth & preservation, climate & resiliency, and mobility & public space, attendees participated in prioritizing the preliminary list of recommendations by geographic area, including Chinatown, Downtown Crossing, the Financial District, the Theater District, and the Wharf District.
Kennan Rhyne, Senior Planner at the BPDA, provided highlights from the December Open House as well as the April BPDA Vision Workshop. Rhyne also discussed community engagement efforts undertaken over the summer in the form of Downtown walking tours, popups, and Advisory Group meetings. The format for the workshop consisted of two presentations with accompanying discussion periods. Feedback gathered from these sessions were reported back in the interval between presentations, focusing on key areas of excitement and concern.
The first presentation reviewed the goals and strategies of PLAN: Downtown, encapsulated in nine project goals:
- Preserve cultural heritage
- Promote dense, mixed-use development
- Improve access to housing, cultural assets, and amenities
- Improve connections through, within, and to Downtown
- Preserve historic building fabric and cultural institutions
- Ensure new development and public realm projects are resilient
- Encourage consistent, safe, healthy, and high-quality improvements to the public realm
- Support business development
- Promotion retention, growth, and diversity of ground-floor retail businesses
The second presentation, delivered by Kathryn Firth and Connor Semler, focused on public spaces in relation to green corridors, open space, and street networks.
Reaction to the proposed recommendations was mixed. Many Chinatown residents welcomed efforts to preserve the cultural heritage of the neighborhood as well as initiatives to increase green space, but urged continued focus on affordable housing and support for street character and small local businesses.
An individual who’s lived on Winter St. for over 18 years was skeptical of the proposed pedestrian zones and how they would affect residents with vehicles as well as those traveling into the city. A Wharf District resident, speaking on the topic of street directionality, requested that considerations be made due to the fact that many of the side streets in and around Atlantic Ave. effectively serve a relief role for traffic.
The full BPDA presentation can be accessed here. BPDA anticipates PLAN: Downtown to be substantially completed by mid-2020. See the full timeline below.