“Connecting people with places” was the theme of the fourth workshop in the Plan JP/Rox held on Thursday at English High School.
Of all the workshops in of the planning process this was most egalitarian; low income or high income, hotel maid or money manager, everyone uses the sidewalks, the streets or some form of transit to get to work, to school and home.
It was also the most interactive and personal; over 100 sat around tables and marked on maps how they get around their neighborhood to their special places or how they got to that night’s meeting.
“Mobility. Getting around. How can better sidewalks and crosswalks make for a more vibrant and active street life?” asked Marie Mercurio, Boston Redevelopment Authority senior planner for Jamaica Plain.
She went onto say that this workshop is meant to look at “the public realm and places. Any place that’s open to all and is accessible either public or private, a sidewalk, a library an apartment lobby is part of that public realm.
“How unique and special places encourage pedestrians and traffic,” she said, “is part of tonight’s discussion.”
Mercurio used her own personal special place as an example.
“I walked with my kids to Forest Hills Cemetery,” the planner said. This was her own special place and public sidewalks and roadways allowed her to connect to it.
Mercurio said the process for JP and Roxbury is a pilot for similar efforts to come in Dudley Square and Glovers Corner in Dorchester. Mayor Marty Walsh announced those initiatives in the State of the City address on Tuesday.
More transportation options for those with few
Alice Brown, the Boston Transportation Dept project manager for GOBoston 2030 spoke about the city’s “mobility action plan.”
“What gives each area its character?” Brown said, “Its streets, its roads intersections. What are the best practices for transportation? But is not just for cars; its walking, biking; its giving people with the least transportation access the most options.”
Brown said, “We’re also looking at two networks. Green links for walking and biking to parks. The Southwest Corridor to Franklin Park using Green Street and Glen Road.”
The workshop assembled at several tables where participants energetically described their methods of transportation and drew their motor and walking routes on maps.
They also noted with dots on the map problem corners or intersections and places special to them.
Of the 120 people at the meeting, 52 walked or took transit and walked, 83 said they walked around the study area to their destinations and most relied on the Orange Line. There was a even mix between bikes walking and driving (private car or Uber/Zipcar) through and out of the study area.
Some of the special places which caused people to connect with included the Brewery, the Minton Stables community garden, Loring Greenough House, Johnson Playground and Bartlett Square. One person added that “a place waiting to happen is 225 Centre Street.”
Washington Street a ‘wasteland to walk on’
One place NO one liked was Washington Street.
“It’s a wasteland to walk on,” said one person from table 5. “There’s too much traffic. People in cars avoid it and bikes use the SWC Park.”
Green Street and Cornwall Street were the type of streets people preferred.
In the second exercise of creating your ideal street everyone said there should be more and better crosswalks such as Lamartine Street. It was universally agreed that more and safer crosswalks on Washington Street would make that a much better pedestrian connection.
Bill Reyelt said that improving the access to Franklin Park using Washington Street especially at the Arborway Yard “would speak to a better public realm.”
Michael Babcock added that part of the Arborway Yard would make great velodrome.
Another looked to the future public realm and “the beautiful changes in the new landscapes of the new Casey Arborway.”
“Jackson Square is dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists,” said one participant at table 1. “Most take a big circle around it. How do we shrink that street?”
At table 6, participants wanted to widen Columbus Avenue, which they agreed was unsafe and unsightly. “Remove the median. It’s a dead space. Put more green between the intersections. There should be no parking on either side of Columbus.”
John Dalzell, BRA senior architect concluded the workshop by saying, “We’re halfway there. We’re going to turn out some plans and recommendations synthesizing all the information you’ve given us. This is what we thought we heard. At the next workshop, we’ll discuss with you the different themes to translate then into new zoning for pieces of the study area.”
Next steps toward zoning recommendations
The collaboration is on schedule, city officials said.
“We’re on track,” said Mercurio, “to compete the work by early summer and get the new zoning recommendations out by the end of summer. Workshop 5 — development scenarios and design guidelines — is scheduled for February or early March.”
If you’d like to attend the remaining workshop or learn more about the BRA’s planning effort, please visit the project’s website.