October 23, 2006

Building Around a Transit Station: Lesson For Framingham in NorthPoint?

Yesterday's Globe story about the massive NorthPoint development in east Cambridge featured a gorgeous drawing of a new "glass-and-steel NorthPoint at Lechmere Green Line stop, the focal point of a transit-oriented development in East Cambridge." Alas, the drawing isn't posted online along with the story, but it's worth taking a look if you get the paper.

The point here is that developers are shelling out big bucks for "a sleek new $70 million MBTA station on NorthPoint property." The drawing shows an attractive, glass-enclosed station offering a great view while shielding commuters from the elements. From the picture, it certainly appears like a place that you wouldn't mind spending (too much) time in.

Truly successful "transit-oriented development" means more than building apartments or condos within a mile of a grungy train station, with unimproved, pedestrian-hostile streetscapes in between. If you want to attract people to this kind of living, it requires serious investments in an aesthetically pleasing, walker-enticing environment.

Along with new residential and commercial space and a 10-acre park, NorthPoint plans also call for "construction of a street grid for the area ... and a pedestrian-friendly reconfiguring of the adjacent O'Brien Highway," the Globe explains. "The new road network includes an extension of First Street from East Cambridge across O'Brien Highway and north through NorthPoint, passing by the location of the new T station. It will be NorthPoint's Main Street."

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