July 2, 2005

What Should the ‘Gateway’ to Boston’s Theater District Look Like?

The Boston Redevelopment Authority has been wrestling with this question for 8 years now, according to the Boston Globe. And while one can appreciate their desire to get this important piece of property done right, 8 YEARS and they still can't even pick a design? Hello?

Now two more plans have been submitted - both, apparently, including "flashy Times Square-like electronic billboards." Hmmm. As a native New Yorker, I love the thrill and excitement of gaudy Times Square, but it works in part because of the human energy from great masses of people. However, the corner of Stuart and Tremont streets will not have anywhere near that magnitude of foot traffic. I fear flashy neon billboards will more likely make people think of Boston's theater district as a minor league of New York's - one that can't measure up - instead of creating energy and excitement. Big flashy billboards facing sparsely-populated streets are depressing.

Boston works so well because of its human scale. After 8 years, you'd think someone could come up with a design that takes advantage of this, instead of trying to do Broadway Lite.

Does housing belong in a major new building on the site? Interesting question. Good urban planning favors "mixed use" neighborhoods, but you might want housing adjacent to the main theater-district buildings and not actually in them.

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