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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.


Artery Innovations


EAGER PUBLIC participation at this month's Public Library forums on the design of the Rose Kennedy Greenway shows how the project is capturing Boston's imagination.

The timing couldn't be better. For the next few months, the three teams chosen to design eight of the 11 key park parcels will be entertaining the most ambitious ideas around, including proposals from other designers, from neighbors, and from interested parties near and far.

From the start of the first forum, people were given wise advice: to let their ideas blossom unconstrained.

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority has already approved plans for sidewalks, lighting, and some tree planting along the corridor, but Cheryl Barton, a San Francisco landscape architect, said that, for now at least, these should not be accepted rigidly. "Challenge the notion of staying within the frame," she counseled.

Gary Hack, dean of the Graduate School of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania, agreed, noting that most parcels are small. Perhaps, as he suggested, one pathway through a park would be better than two wide sidewalks on either side.

Barnaby Evans, a Providence artist who directs the popular WaterFire project there, said designers should push against the modest $31 million budget tentatively set for the work. "Don't stint," he said. Also, artwork should be integrated into overall plans, not chosen beforehand, Evans said.

Ted Landsmark, president of the Boston Architectural Center, said the planning process needs to be broadened so that the Greenway can become a true common ground for all of Boston - one of the basic requirements for the project's success.

After the second forum, Boston's chief planner, Rebecca Barnes, said she was impressed by "what people who love arts and culture have been able to achieve in building community."

A third forum, focusing on history, is scheduled this evening at the library, while the concluding session next Tuesday will explore themes that can connect the entire Greenway as it winds from North Station to Chinatown.

Already, specific ideas are plentiful. A performance space. Museums celebrating the city's history and diversity. A skateboarding site. A wading pool/skating rink. A carousel or Ferris wheel. A large produce market. Cafes, and maybe a medium-sized restaurant. Small buildings with bold designs. Open space that can be used for festivals and cultural activities. There should be many more.

All too soon, however, in late spring and summer, plans for the Greenway will begin to narrow, and opportunities for innovation will slip away. Now is the time for Boston to think big, and to think out loud.

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