Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day 5 - Public Hearing

Today, July 24th, we went to the Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Planning Advisory Committee public hearing, where we viewed four separate presentations for different area property planning ideas. The four projects that we talked about were the Boston Marriott Long Wharf, Long Wharf, 255 State Street and the New England Aquarium. On each project, there is work to be done (hence why there are proposals being made to enhance/change the different areas).
Starting with the Marriott Long Warf Edge Activation Project, it was interesting to see how different the property’s original plans looked compared to the actual standing building and area that we have today. There were compromises made from the original plans to the new ones. A couple of the compromises that stuck out to me were: the original plans were much more open, allowing for more green areas than there currently exist on the Marriott Long Wharf, which consists purely of Columbus Park, as well as originally the “Harbor Towers” were going to be four different buildings, whereas today there are two towers today, but each is the height of two of the original towers. But, it was this Marriott that brought activity to the harbor and started the booming community that is there now. But, it still has a ways to go. The Eastern half of the Marriott has nothing exciting or inviting there. There is northing that would draw people in to come for a visit or just go check it out. So by putting in some investment, we can fix the Boston Marriott and make it an even better place to visit/go to. Some of the improvements include: wrapping the waterfront end with inviting uses such as three to four retail/restaurant spaces, extending Faneuil Hall Marketplace retail “Main Street”, as well as improve the Boston Harbor Islands and the traffic and visits that they generate. The Marriott is trying to make the area a more attractive place. Putting in the public bathrooms in the lobby was just the start of the renovations. This was an important step in the right direction. Connectivity is an important key part of this area. Keeping everything connected allows people to go all over and visit lots of different areas. For example, millions of people visit Faneuil Hall each year. It’s an important and exciting place to learn new things, shop and eat lots of different types of food. I believe that the improvements proposed for the Marriott Long Wharf are good ones that would help the Wharf in general and make the place a more exciting place to go to and visit on a daily and non-daily basis.
The next property/project was Long Wharf itself. There is a nice long boardwalk there, but it has always been a rule that no one (vendors or stores or anything) could be placed on the boardwalk, so all these different vendors and stores were on the sidewalk, cluttering it up. It made it a hazard with everything on the sidewalk. So, two vendors got moved to the boardwalk, which cleared up the sidewalk a little and made it easier for not only the vendors but also the visitors to the boardwalk on a daily basis to walk around and see the different wares that are available for purchasing. Another improvement that the people would like to be made is that a restaurant be added to the end of Long Wharf Park. This would attract not only more people, but also more businesses to use the Long Wharf as a place to visit and see what’s going on as a “happening place”. Lastly, they would like to open up the wharf and allow more green in the wharf. As I said earlier, there is really only the one park: Columbus Park. The rest of the wharf is not cluttered; it’s just not an open green park that would allow allows for different types of relaxation and fun. I believe that this is a good plan, and that opening up the wharf will allow more people to enjoy the wharf on a daily basis and make it a desirable destination for not only visitors to Boston but also Boston natives.
The third presentation was on 255 State Street. This is currently a 12-story office building that is 97% leased out. On the first floor there are two restaurants and an ice cream shop. This allows for lots of public used and lots of people to enjoy the building. But one thing that needs to get remedied is that it is dangerous to cross the street because you can’t see the cars that are crossing the street because you have to look around the trolleys that are coming and it is difficult to see around the trolleys that are coming around the bend. Overall, these people were very concerned with climate change and wanting to make improvements to the building and the street as well as making sure that the climate is kept in mind and that the impact is not a big one to the climate.
The last presentation was on the New England Aquarium and the improvements they would like to make. The Aquarium does realize that not only did they just conclude a huge enhancement to the Aquarium that it will be a while until the next one occurs. The new renovation that the New England Aquarium is suggesting is cleaning up the front of the aquarium mainly. The Aquarium sees 1.3 to 1.4 million people a year. One of the things that the Aquarium would like to do is to make the Aquarium actually be recognizable. It currently just looks like a normal random building. But, if a painting of something aquatic (say an octopus or a sea jelly or something) would alert people that the building is actually the aquarium. Another thing is that the Aquarium would like to make more outdoor uses in the plaza, especially because there is only shade for a couple hours a day. Another big idea is the parking lots. Though it is easy to get to the Aquarium via the T, many people drive to the Aquarium because they have a lot of bags, or big families, and it is just easier to drive in. The Aquarium is aware of this and wants to make parking easier and more convenient for everyone. They also want to open up the view to the water so that people can actually enjoy the view of the beautiful Boston Harbor. I believe that the renovations that the New England Aquarium wants to make are very good, and it is good that they see that it’s going to be a while, especially considering it’s going to take 20 to 30 million dollars for the new renovations.
Overall I was very impressed to see that people are taking time out of their busy days to participate and give their opinion on what happens to the harbor around them. I’m glad to see that people are aware of the issues in their community and that everything can always be made better and should be made better. It is the constant improvements that make the world a better place. It is the involvement of the community that will allow these renovations to occur and will allow the Wharf and harbor to become a better place and more desirable to many Bostonians and non-Bostonians. I love the wharf, but I can’t wait to see the good renovations that are going to occur to make the wharf an even better and more exciting to be at.

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