Public spaces define a city’s personality. Parks and squares, harbors and historic sites are the face that Boston shows the world and are a great source of pride for Boston’s residents.

A Better City helps give voice to and coordinate the many stakeholders involved in developing, managing and funding Boston’s vibrant public spaces.

Municipal Harbor Planning Process

Several parts of Boston’s Downtown Waterfront have been identified for potential development, including parcels at the edge of the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel, at the Harbor Garage, and at the site of Hook Lobster. The Boston Redevelopment Authority is managing the process which will result in amplifications, substitutions, and offsets to be incorporated into the overall plan to satisfy requirements of the Massachusetts Public Waterfront Act, known as Chapter 91.

Why It’s Important

Boston’s Waterfront is one of the city’s great attractions, featuring the New England Aquarium, two major hotels and passenger maritime activities on Long Wharf. Managing development to balance the needs of businesses, workers, commuters, residents and visitors will be critical to success of the project.

A Better City’s Role

A Better City serves on the Downtown Waterfront Planning Advisory Committee, which is instrumental in development of the Municipal Harbor Plan for space along the water’s edge from Christopher Columbus Park to the Moakley Bridge. In this role, A Better City has provided detailed written and oral comments on the Public Realm and Watersheet Activation Plan and on the City’s description of proposed amplifications, substitutions, and offsets in the Municipal Harbor Plan.

Public Realm Planning Study

In July 2015, A Better City partnered with the Boston Transportation Department to develop the Public Realm Planning Study for Go Boston 2030. As co-chair for the Go Boston 2030 Plan, A Better City identified the untapped potential of Boston’s transportation to function as a network of public spaces that would support social and economic activities. This study explores and devices placemaking strategies to claim streets for people. A Better City is currently working with its partners and design consultant in revising the Boston’s Parklets Program, and developing standards for the implementation of semi-permanent plazas and Open Streets events.  These standards will be tested in a series of pilot plazas scheduled for 2017. Our project team is also supporting City efforts to streamline the design review process by establishing design standards for a selection of public space components.  

Why It’s Important

While the design and functioning of our streets ensure traffic efficiency, it does not respond to today’s need for multi-modal transportation and dynamic public spaces. At the same time, streets are the largest open space network owned by cities. By retrofitting our streets so they can accommodate social, cultural, and economic activities, we will leverage an underutilized public asset, while supporting the socio-economic development of Boston and creating vibrant neighborhoods. This study develops mechanisms to retrofit Boston’s streets.

A Better City’s Role

A Better City serves as project manager for the different efforts under this initiative.  We manage the consulting team and budget, track progress, develop scopes of work and work plans, and convene stakeholder meetings and outreach efforts with the City of Boston and the larger community.  A Better City also edited the content for the publications: “A Guide to Placemaking for Mobility” –recipient of the 2017 Chapter Award by The Congress of New Urbanism (CNU) – “The State of the Public Realm in Boston,” and “Inspirational Ideas for Boston’s Public Realm.”  This work is supported by the Barr Foundation and Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship.

Retrofitting Phillips Square

At the intersection of Harrison Avenue and Essex Street, Phillips Square is a dormant public space, waiting for Bostonians to realize its full potential. Currently, the location is over-designed for vehicular traffic, with one underutilized roadway and an empty traffic island.  In partnership with the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) and Boston Planning and Design Agency (BPDA), A Better City manages the development of a conceptual design proposal for retrofitting Phillips Square. The project team has convened a series of design charrettes with the local community to shape the proposal.  The City of Boston plans to implement a semi-permanent version of the finalized conceptual design proposal in 2017.

Why It’s Important

This conceptual design proposal sets the foundation for the transformation of Phillip Square into a vibrant public space in the heart of Chinatown. By the end of 2017, this location will be improved so it can support better local social and economic activities. 

A Better City’s Role

A Better City serves as project manager for the project team, managing the consulting team and budget, tracking progress, and developing work plans. Our team works hand in hand with our partners to ensure implementation of the design proposal in the near future. 

Rose Kennedy Greenway

The Rose Kennedy Greenway is 17 acres of public space in downtown Boston created when the elevated central highway artery was relocated underground.  It is a linear series of parks and gardens that reconnected Boston’s neighborhoods and has become one of America’s foremost urban parks.

Why it’s important

The Greenway provides a green connection to the Harbor, welcoming more than a million visitors annually who attend events, ride the carousel, patronize food vendors, or just come to take a break during their workday. As a vibrant public space and economic driver, the Greenway is a key asset to Boston residents, businesses, tourists, and the public sector.

A Better City’s role

A Better City has a long history of active, constructive influence on shaping the Greenway, helping to craft its master plan and design.  The very founding of A Better City is rooted in the need to preserve, protect, and enhance this important asset.

In the spirit of civic leadership and commitment to the future of downtown Boston and the waterfront, A Better City’s members are working to develop a sustainable and long-term funding plan for the Greenway with shared responsibility among the State, the City of Boston, and the business community.  

Greenway Q&A