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State to begin dismantling Longfellow Bridge towers this week

March 5, 2014 02:58 PM

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The state will begin dismantling the iconic "salt and pepper" towers of the Longfellow Bridge later this week for cleaning and repair. File photo by Brock Parker.

The iconic towers on the Longfellow Bridge sometimes referred to as the “salt and pepper” shakers are about to be taken apart and cleaned.

The state Department of Transportation said Wednesday that it will begin dismantling the first of the four towers on the Longfellow Bridge later this week to clean and repair them as part of the $255.5 million Longfellow Bridge Rehabilitation project.

Contractor White-Skanska-Consigli JV will move a barge-mounted crane into place on the Charles River Thursday, and the crane will be used to remove the granite stones of the towers. The stones will then be taken to a staging area for cleaning storage and repairs.

The towers were completed more than 100 years ago and the two on the upstream-side of the bridge will be dismantled first, according to the state. The two towers on the downstream side of the bridge will be dismantled and restored when that side of the bridge is rehabilitated during the final phase of construction, which is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2015.

Before each of the towers are rebuilt, seismic reinforce construction will be completed in the tower piers, according to the state.

--brock.globe@gmail.com

Legoland seeks child ambassadors for Discovery Center

February 20, 2014 12:52 PM


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Think your child has what it takes to become one of Boston’s inaugural Lego ambassadors?

From now until March 14, LEGOLAND Discovery Center Boston will be accepting applications from children ages 5 to 12 to participate on a team to help LEGOLAND become the best attraction of its kind.

Kelly Smith, Marketing Manager at LEGOLAND Discovery Center Boston, said this is another step that will bring the discovery center closer to its opening in May. The group selected Ian Coffey as the new master model builder on January 26, and now Coffey will select his panel of child advisors to give feedback on the new center.

“We had our Brick Factor competition to find the master model builder, but every one needs a great team of support,” Smith said. “So we’ve developed the junior competition, which will allow 12 kids to be part of a team to help Ian with events and activities leading up to grand opening, as well as after the fact.”

Ian Coffey, the master model builder for Boston’s LEGOLAND Discovery Center, said he is excited to select the team of children that will comprise the junior construction panel and that he will be looking for a variety of qualities in the applications.

“It’s my first real responsibility, which I’m really excited for,” Coffey said. “The things I’m looking for is how creative the children can be, how enthusiastic they are, and how their imagination comes about . . . [I’m looking for] who really had all those things coming together when they built with the Lego bricks.”

As part of the application, children must include a video or photo and written response explaining what makes them the biggest Lego fan and why they should be part of the panel. They should also show something they built with Lego bricks. Coffey said he is excited to see the responses and what the kids come up with by themselves.

“In an essay, I want to see the kid. I love the raw child, even a handwritten note,” Coffey said. “When you’re reading it and you can really see that they’re engaged in what they’re writing, that’s the kind of stuff that’s going to stick out to me.”

Smith said that while a major part of being ambassador is testing the rides and being excited about the attraction, another part is providing feedback to the center. She said LEGOLAND is an attraction for children, and as such their opinions help make the center the best it can be. She said that in the process, it also provides children a great opportunity to interact with adults and grow through working in a team atmosphere.

“It’s a team of 12, so they will need to work together and develop skills of teamwork. But also, interpersonal skills, speaking skills and confidence will be gained throughout the year . . . It’s a pretty strong role for a child,” Smith said. “[We’re looking for] children who feel comfortable working with a variety of different people.”

Smith said it will be interesting to see the number of children who apply. She said it’s great to be able to offer those selected the chance to experience the discovery center before it officially opens in May.

“The Discovery Center is a really exciting attraction coming to the Boston area,” Smith said. “It’s kind of a unique opportunity for a child to be able to experience something so new and great and incorporate it with a toy that’s so educational and constructive. It’s such a great toy that so many children love.”

Coffey hopes that parents will encourage and help their Lego-loving children to apply. He said that for him, it was all about taking steps towards what he loves, and he hopes a lot of children will do the same.

“I want kids to come out of this after day one saying this is my dream, I can reach it. I can do this,” Coffey said. “The creativity, design, imagination, you can build those and shape them, but I really want children to understand that if they want to become something—even become a junior panelist—to just keep going for it.”

LEGOLAND Discovery Center Boston will be accepting applications for its junior construction panel from now until March 14. The 12 winners will be announced on their Facebook page on March 17. For contest rules and to apply, visit the LEGOLAND’s website.

MBTA announces two-year closure of Government Center T station to start March 22

February 12, 2014 10:47 AM

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(MBTA)

The T plans to hang a sign like the one depicted above, along with other signs, to notify riders of the scheduled closure date.

The MBTA today announced the start date for its planned two-year closure of Government Center Station -- Saturday, March 22.

The 24-month closure is part of a $90 million project to renovate and rebuild the busy station at City Hall Plaza.

MBTA personnel began posting signs today at Government Center and other stations, T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said.

The T has also created a webpage with additional details, including recommendations for how passengers should navigate the system during the closure.

A transfer point for the Green and Blue lines, the station is the 13th busiest in the MBTA system and the third oldest, according to the T. On average, 11,315 people enter Government Center Station on weekdays.

Work on the Government Center Station project began in the fall while the station remained opened.

The agency had originally planned to shutdown the station this past September, but decided to delay the closure until after the Callahan Tunnel, which is undergoing construction of its own, reopens.

During the closure, trains will still run through, but will not stop at the station.

The T has said it will take steps to try to reduce impacts from the closure, including running: special bus route that will stop at Government Center, Haymarket, and State stations. And, Bowdoin Station, normally closed on weekends and after 6:30 p.m. on weekdays, will be kept open seven days a week and until the same time other stations close.

The overhaul, the first significant modernization to the Government Center Station in 50 years, will bring it into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act and make myriad other improvements. The most dramatic change will be a tall, glass-lined station entrance, or headhouse, emerging from City Hall Plaza.

Other work will include: renovating Green Line and Blue Line platforms; overhauling the electrical system; installing new elevators, escalators, LED signs, improved lighting, and an expanded fare collection area, and reconstructing some of the surrounding parts of Cambridge Street and City Hall Plaza, officials said.

The station is scheduled to reopen in the spring of 2016. After it reopens, some work will continue before the project's scheduled completion at the end of 2016. The T has said it expects federal funding to cover about 80 percent of the project cost.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com.
--
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All-you-can-eat chocolate buffet every Saturday at Cafe Fleuri

February 7, 2014 03:03 PM

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What better way to ward off the winter blues and get into the Valentine’s Day spirit than attending an all-you-can-eat chocolate buffet?

In honor of their 25th Chocolate Bar Season, Café Fleuri, located at The Langham, Boston, is celebrating this milestone with “Decades of Decadence,” a chocolate buffet featuring a vast variety of chocolate lover’s favorite items from the bar’s beginning.

Pastry chef Ryan Pike, who has been at Café Fleuri for about six years, said the bar has put the café on the map. Offering a buffet of all-you-can-eat chocolate desserts every Saturday from September to June, the bar is every chocolate lover’s dream.

“We do about 100 different items, ranging from really rich bitter dark chocolate all the way to white chocolate,” Pike said.

Executive chef Mark Sapienza, who has been at Café Fleuri for about 15 years, said that the idea for the bar came in the 80s from chef Raymond Ost. Originally, the idea of a chocolate bar on Saturdays was a spinoff of French tradition that was quickly embraced by the city.

“There’s something in France that they do on Saturday afternoons, where normally parents would feed their children bread and chocolate after school on Saturdays. That was [Ost’s] idea, that on Saturday afternoons the café would have bread and chocolate. It was an idea that filled the void in the financial district.”

Sapienza said that since the bar’s inauguration in the 80s, every year the team of chefs and managers would develop a theme to keep the desserts new and fresh. He said that themes have ranged from chocolate dishes around the world to incorporating the five elements of wood, metal, water, fire, and wind to putting on a “Chocolate Trail” that offered treats inspired by each of Boston’s neighborhoods.

This year, in honor of the 25th anniversary, a variety of dishes are offered in honor of each decade. Pike said that they chose favorites from the past, which he feels resonate with customers and adds a unique touch to the experience.

“I try to hit on the things that everyone can relate to,” Pike said. “Like things people grew up with. For example, the cupcakes with swirls on them: I decorate them so it brings them back to their childhood. People can relate to it and they really love it.”

Pike said participants can expect to see a wide variety of both traditional and classic treats, such as Mississippi Mud Pie, Boston Cream Pie, chocolate crème brulee, cheesecakes, cupcakes, and tarts. He said they are also dedicating a table to “future” chocolate, exploring new textures and flavors with a smoked chocolate cake, flexible lemon curd tart, and a chocolate caviar.

Regardless of people’s preferences, Sapienza said everyone is bound to find something they love. In addition to the featured desserts, there will also be a crepe station, homemade ice cream station, a cotton candy machine, and an oven constantly pumping out fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. Sapienza said there will also be a variety of savory snacks to cut the sweetness.

“We put fresh potato chips, popcorn, salted almonds, pecans, and nuts. People can take a break from the chocolate, have some salt, and get ready to go back for more sweets,” Sapienza said. “We try to make sure there are things for everybody out there.”

Pike said that he loves having the opportunity to offer so many chocolate masterpieces to the public. He said that they continuously pour over the menu to keep it fresh, and that customers never know what they’ll get when they walk in the door.

“Come spend an afternoon indulging in chocolate from all around the world,” Pike said. “Take a weekend to come in and enjoy yourself.”

The bufett costs $42 for adults, $29 for children age 5-12 and children under age 4 are free.

“Decades of Decadence” will be taking place every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. until June 28. Special decorations and items will be featured for Valentine’s Day. For more information or to book reservations, visit the café’s website.

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In defense of the Green Line

February 6, 2014 04:43 PM

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John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The MBTA announced today that a number of its bus lines will receive a countdown clock system to alert riders to when the next bus on each route will arrive. Last week, the transit system completed its 18-month installation of 314 of these countdown clocks at 53 stations along the Red, Orange, and Blue lines. While by all means good news for the T, the announcement left me and the nearly 220,000 daily riders of the Green Line wondering: What about us?

The Green Line gets a pretty bad--and in my opinion, undeserved --rap.

What other line serves more than 60 stations, covering 12 Boston neighborhoods and parts of Brookline, Newton, Cambridge, and soon Somerville?

What other line touches Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern University, the Colleges of the Fenway, the Downtown universities, and even (with a 15-minute walk) MIT?

What other line drops you off steps away from Boston's biggest landmarks--Fenway Park, Newbury Street, the Science Museum, to name a few?

Why will it be one of the last lines to get the countdown clocks? The MBTA said it will introduce the technology on the Green Line by the end of this year.

It's time to reclaim the Green Line, Boston's and America's first subway line. Sure, the rides may be bumpy and the trains may be delayed (though that problem's not exclusive to Green Line,) but it excels at taking you where you need to go. What else can we ask of it?

I am a proud Green Line commuter. It's the line that ferried me around the city as a college student. It's the line that still does that today. The Green Line and I may not always get along, but day after day, it keeps showing up, and I keep riding.

Today, we asked you what you love about the Green Line. Here are some of the responses:

Sarcasm aside, the Green Line touches a lot of this city's population. Let's embrace Boston's only streetcar, subway line.

Lastly, as promised on Twitter, a Green Line poem:

O fairest of T lines, you take me away
From Park Street to Lechmere, Riverside to Fenway
In rain, sleet and snow
You still manage to go
Though often you run on substantial delays.

Agree? Disagree? Hate my limerick? Share your comments below, email me at catherine.cloutier@globe.com, or tweet @cmcloutier.

MBTA to bring countdown clock system to bus stations

February 6, 2014 11:19 AM

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(MBTA)

The MBTA plans to soon install countdown clocks at a number of bus stations throughout its system to notify riders when the next bus on each route will leave that station, the agency announced today.

The bus way at Forest Hills Station in Jamaica Plain will be the first bus location to get the electronic message boards, according to T spokeswoman Kelly Smith.

Signs are also planned in bus ways at Dudley Square and Ruggles stations, she said. Eight other stations have been "tentatively" chosen to receive the signs: Harvard Square; Haymarket, Ashmont; Kenmore; Maverick, Wonderland, Jackson Square, and Central Square.

The signs should be operational by summer, Smith said.

The signs, using real-time bus tracking data, will provide information about when each route serving that station is next expected to depart. The signs will feature both visual and audio messages.

The project is funded through federal stimulus money, and each sign costs about $50,000, a price tag that includes the display, hardware, software, installation, maintenance and a push-button activated sound system so that people with visual impairments can access the information on the sign, she said.

Most stations will have one sign each. Dudley, because of its size, will have two, she said.

"I've often said our buses are the work horses of our system, serving more than 375,000 people on a typical weekday," T general manager Beverly Scott said in a statement. "The countdown signs at our busiest bus stops will provide customers with information that will make their public transit experience easier and more convenient."

Last week, the T completed an 18-month-long project to activate a total of 314 countdown clocks at all 53 subway stations on the Red, Orange and Blue lines, which officials said made the T one of the first transit agencies in the country to equip all heavy rail stations with train-arrival information.

Officials said the signs have been popular and well-received by riders, and since they were introduced in the summer of 2012 the agency said it has made regular improvements based on rider feedback, including making the signs more accurate and easier to see.

The T said it expects to introduce the countdown clock system to the Green Line by the end of this year. The light rail line is undergoing work to upgrade its less-sophisticated train tracking system with GPS and sensor technology to allow for countdown clock capability.

The agency has also said technology upgrades on the Green Line will allow smartphone-carrying riders to be able to track in real-time the whereabouts and expected arrival of the line's trains by 2015.

Trains on the Red, Orange and Blue have been tracked by mobile applications since the fall of 2010, when the agency made real-time train location data on those lines available to private software developers, who have created numerous smartphone applications. The T made real-time data on bus locations available to software developers in fall of 2009.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com.
--
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(MBTA)

20 medical marijuana dispensary licenses awarded in Mass.

January 31, 2014 12:24 PM

State health officials Friday released the names of companies that will receive the first 20 licenses to open medical marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts.

In Middlesex County, licenses will go to facilities slated for Lowell, Ayer, Newton, and Cambridge. In Norfolk County, the locations are in Brookline and Quincy. In Suffolk County, two are slated in Boston.

In Plymouth county, licenses will go to facilities slated for Plymouth and Brockton. And in Worcester County, the locations are in Milford and Worcester. In Essex County, they are slated in Salem and Haverhill.

Here are the others: Mashpee and Dennis in Barnstable County; Taunton and Fairhaven in Bristol County; Holyoke in Hampden County; and Northampton in Hampshire County.

Counties without a selected dispensary include Berkshire, Franklin, Dukes and Nantucket.


Boston Urban Iditarod changes name to avoid confusing dog sleds with shopping carts

January 30, 2014 03:18 PM

Idiotorama.jpg Check out photos from the 2013 Boston Urban Iditarod race

BREAKING NEWS: People racing shopping carts while raising food for charity are in danger of being confused with the great Alaskan sled dog race.

The Boston Urban Iditarod — a fundraiser/pub crawl/costume contest/charitable organization — received a cease-and-desist notice from the Iditarod Trail Committee, Inc., asking them to remove their trademarked name from the race. The Boston Urban Iditarod will henceforth be referred to as the “Boston Urban Idiotorama” to distinguish the vast differences between the races.

Tim Jones, one of Idiotorama’s co-founders, said the unexpected letter really threw the organization for a loop. He said he doesn’t understand how anyone could confuse the goofy, charitable organization with the prestigious dog sled race.

“It’s totally ridiculous. There’s no chance anyone could confuse the idea of a real dog sled race happening in Alaska with people dressed up in costumes with shopping carts going around to bars in Boston,” Jones said.

But, according to the Iditarod Trail Committee, Inc., they have rights to the name “regardless of whether there is any likelihood of confusion.” The cease-and-desist letter stated:

“Your use of “Iditarod” in connection with your race and on your website is likely to confuse your race participants and website users as to whether your race is somehow affiliated or connected with, or approved by, ITC. At minimum, such use is likely to impair the distinctiveness of IDITAROD or harm its reputation.”

The Boston Urban Iditarod was not the only urban race to receive the letter. Letters were sent out to similar races across the country, including one in New York City that was held last week. Jones hopes that even though the events must change their names, they can still continue to leave their legacy across the country.

“We’d love for all the urban iditarods to rename to something similar because it’s nice to have that cohesiveness,” Jones said. “I love the idea of somehow being able to still connect with all the urban whatever-we’re-allowed-to-call-them-now’s.”

The Boston Urban Idiotorama will still take place on Saturday, March 1. Jones said that while this legal action has been annoying and unnecessary, the race is still on and he is excited to race around the city in a fashion similar to the Iditarod in a way that benefits the city.

“We’ve got a month to go, and we’re excited for the race. I’m glad it’s over with so we can continue focusing on making a great race and having the charitable contribution that the race offers,” Jones said. “It’s a slightly different name, but the same great race. We’re still here to support the Boston Medical Center Food Pantry.”

For more information on the race, visit the event’s website.



Dance extravaganza coming to Copley Square, dancers needed

January 29, 2014 12:21 PM

Celebrity Series of Boston, the same group that brought the city Street Pianos, is looking for over 150 dancers to participate in a unique dance extravaganza. The enthusiastic, contemporary line dance will descend on Copley Square this May. Information meetings will be held Feb. 2 to Feb. 4.

Volunteer dancers will participate in a series of 20 rehearsals to learn and perform Le Grand Continental, a co-production by Montreal choreographer Sylvain Émard Danse and the Festival TransAmeriques. Produced in partnership with the Celebrity Series of Boston, the performances promise to be an explosive, grand finale to cap off the organization’s 75th anniversary season.

Gary Dunning, the executive director of Celebrity Series of Boston, said the performance runs about 30 minutes, with multiple styles of music and dance. He said they are looking for as many dancers that Copley Square can hold, and that no prior dance experience is needed. This way, the performance becomes just as much about community as it does about performance art.

“We look for passion, energy, and the desire to do this, while we take on the responsibility for training. We’ll take all the applicants and work with them,” Dunning said. “In a sense, it’s as much about creating community as it is about celebrating community.”

Dunning said that he is excited to offer this energetic, professional dance experience to the city. He was amazed by the success of Street Pianos Boston and felt the city craved more opportunities to participate in and develop community around performance art. He said that kicking off the season with Street Pianos reflected Celebrity Series of Boston’s mission, and that it is only fitting to end the season with another event that reflects performance art’s “spirit of adventure.”

“There’s a pent up demand for good, fun, public performance art projects, and the city hasn’t had very many of them. The response to Street Pianos and the early response that I’m getting to this is that Boston will embrace it, both as an audience and as performers,” Dunning said. “Our goal is to have a project every year of some kind or another that celebrates how much Boston loves performing arts.”

Le Grand Continental requires no previous dance experience. Dunning said that the piece relies on energy, passion, and a desire to participate within a large community. He said all ages are welcome, and that the current ages already range from young teenagers to those in their 70s. He hopes potential participants will recognize what an amazing, unique opportunity this event presents.

“You can take on a new adventure, try something, and learn something new in a supportive and professional environment,” Dunning said. “You make new friends and experience something you never thought you could, which is performing in front of hundreds of thousands of people. It’ll be great to be part of such a cool community project and to connect with people across the city.”

Le Grand Continental will be performed in Copley Square three times throughout May 16-18. Dancers will attend 20 rehearsals before then, learning choreography in small groups leading up to show day. Information sessions will be held on the following days at the following times:

Info sessions:
Sunday, Feb. 2 at 1 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 2 at 2:30 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 2 at 4 p.m.
Monday, Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 4 at 7:30 p.m.

For more information or to sign up for an information session, visit the event’s website.

Boston named third best US city for public transit

January 28, 2014 05:08 PM

This one's a surprise: Boston--and by extension, its pride and joy of a transit system--was ranked the third best US city for public transportation by Walk Score.

To assemble the ranking, Walk Score calculated the Transit Score of 316 cities and nearly 7,000 neighborhoods. Boston scored a 75, falling behind New York (81) and San Francisco (80.)

Transit Scores were based on the average resident's access to public transit in the city, using a population-weighted methodology. Only cities with more than 500,000 people were included in the top list.

Walk Score said the ranking favored Northeast cities "with established subway systems."

In other MBTA news, the Green Line is delayed.

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