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Beyond The Big Dig
About this project

What happens to the ribbon of land being created by the depression of the Central Artery may be the most important development decision to face Boston in a generation.



MIT CASE STUDY

South Boston Marine Park, Boston

   

South Boston Marine Park South Boston Marine Park is defined in part by its rows of trees. (Globe Staff Photo / John Tlumacki)

MORE LESSONS FOR BOSTON

Boston
* Commonwealth Avenue: Back Bay's elegant boulevard is one of the city's most successful streets.
* Piers Park: Successful in large part because of the designer's sensitivity to the requests of the East Boston community.
* Post Office Square: A lovely oasis in the heart of the city's Financial District that's a good example of public-private partnership.

Barcelona
* Parc de Clot: Interesting reuse of an old industrial site on a scale similar to many Central Artery parcels.
* Porta Vell: A mostly successful project that reconnected a port city with its waterfront.
* The Ramblas: An outstanding example of a main thoroughfare with a people-friendly scale.

Paris
* Parc Andre Citroen: Reuse of a huge industrial complex to create a park that is an urban work of art.
* Viaduc des Arts/Promenade Plantee: Innovative reuse of an old elevated railroad viaduc to create a much-needed urban park.

San Francisco
* Crissy Field: An obsolete military base was redeveloped into a vast and successful public open space.
* Ferry Building Plaza: A not-altogether-successful attempt to redevelop the land formerly occupied by an elevated downtown expressway.
* Rincon Park: Public-private partnership use to build and maintain a waterfront public park.
* Yerba Buena: This combination of park and civic space is a testimonial to the power of careful urban planning and careful event planning.

The Massachusetts Port Authority is designing and developing South Boston Marine Park on land it owns along the waterfront in South Boston. The new open space consists of two parcels totaling less than 1.5 acres. The bigger of the two park blocks is the same size as Parcel 9 in the North End-section of the Rose Kennedy Greenway. A new 15-story office building borders the west edge of Marine Park; a similarly tall hotel building forms the street-wall to the east.

MassPort hopes Marine Park will create an entirely new public destination on the waterfront, suitable for sitting, gathering, and enjoying a sandwich. The base of the delta-shaped park will afford a stunning harbor view, once Jimmy's Harborside Restaurant is relocated elsewhere on the waterfront.

Concept

South Boston Marine Park is designed as a public destination at the center of a new commercial office and hotel complex. As such, the park occupies a delta-shaped parcel of land that results from the straightening of D Street in South Boston, creating direct automobile access from the South Boston neighborhood to the waterfront that stretches along Northern Avenue. Evenly spaced London plane trees define the edges of the park, filter light in the summer, and let adequate light reach the ground during the winter. Trees frame a sitting area at the at the south end of the larger block. A lawn graces the Northern Avenue end of the park, rising gently to the center of the block. The park's tree canopy will shade roughly one-third of the open space.

Features

Marine Park presents to the public a range of open space options that MassPort hopes citizens will find appealing.

  • The park's centerpiece is a lawn that slopes up and away from the waterfront, affording views of the harbor from a slightly elevated perspective.
  • The sidewalk along Northern Avenue is wide enough to accommodate a stage, with the lawn available to seat the audience.
  • The park contains a clam shack-like food shed for patrons who can eat the fried offerings under two intersecting trellis structures, sheltering 100 moveable chairs.
  • As many as 300 people can find seating on permanent seat-walls that guide pedestrian circulation throughout the park.

Lessons

Have a good client -- like MassPort -- with vision, as well as the authority and the financial resources to pull off the project. Don't make the mistake that open space alone is enough to generate public interest -- include food service to attract people. Mix nature and the man-made environment -- trees that line streets to mark the park edges, tree-bosks to create interest and mystery and even a sloping lawn that makes it possible to view the water no matter the tide level. Use clever design like the clam-shack to create an identity authentic to the Boston waterfront.

These case studies were researched and written by Zhan Guo and Alex-Ricardo Jimenez of MIT, under the direction of Thomas J. Piper of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. They examine a series of urban open space projects with particular lessons for Boston as it decides the future of the land freed up when the Central Artery moves underground.




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