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.
Shaping Boston's new open space
By John Drew and Richard A. Dimino, 5/25/2002
In three years the elevated Central Artery will be removed from the
landscape. The public has high expectations for the reuse of these 27 acres of
land. While there are numerous benefits that will result from our $14.6
billion central highway system, the focus on restoring Boston's urban fabric
and reconnecting the city to its harbor has been enduring and steadfast.
This unique opportunity faces real challenges. We need an "owner" for this project as soon as possible. We support the creation of a single entity that will have as its sole responsibility the management, design, construction, operations, maintenance, and programming of this complex building project.
Recently, Mayor Menino and House Speaker Finneran, working together with Acting Governor Swift, took a major step forward in addressing this challenge by proposing a framework for such an organization. The next step is the passing of legislation to endow this entity with the necessary expertise and resources.
Another issue that needs attention is the creation of a vision for the area's restoration. The recently completed "master plan" is a good starting point and can provide helpful guidelines. However, we are still in search of a program and a design approach that meets the multiple objectives of creating a common ground for our neighborhoods, a world-renowned destination, and a groundswell of political and financial support.
This challenge needs to be taken into account as we move into the next phase.
How do we find the best designers who will shape the vision and bring us the highest quality design?
The surface restoration component of the project is underfunded. All estimates for construction of these open spaces have been higher than the funds available in the Central Artery/Tunnel budget. In addition, estimates for the operation and maintenance of the space have ranged between $4 million and $6 million annually. That is more than one-third of the Boston Parks Department's budget. A financing strategy needs to be in place that stands on the shoulders of a bold vision and provides for a stable source of operational and maintenance funds. The financing strategy needs to be both equitable and innovative and should ensure the public's trust and be proactive in building public-private partnerships.
The following principles should be considered in the development of a governance and finance strategy:
As a community, we have a strong track record in city-building. Now is the time for us to come together not only to uphold our reputation but to use this opportunity to create a legacy that will shine brightly and provide tangible benefits to a broad population for generations to come.
John Drew is president of World Trade Center and Seaport Hotel and chairman of the Artery Business Committee. Richard A. Dimino is president and CEO of the Artery Business Committee and a lecturer in Urban Planning and Design at Harvard's Graduate School of Design.