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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 momentum


Political leaders adore a vacuum.

Following the Legislature's failure last month to create a new governing agency for the Rose Kennedy Greenway, both state and city officials are moving to fill the void. Their proposals are in some ways at odds; not surprisingly, the state and city would each augment its own role. But the two could be combined to give new momentum to the project. With the elevated Central Artery due to come down over the next two years, the extraordinary potential of the street-level spaces needs imagination and drive.

One proposal grows out of the sensitivity at the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority to critics who have said the agency is a road builder, not a city builder, and its staff is not up to the job of selecting world-class designs for these spaces. Acting Governor Jane Swift, with Chief Secretary Stephen Crosby and Turnpike Chairman Matt Amorello, is talking about creating a new panel of top-level advisers to help pick ambitious designs.

From City Hall, meanwhile, Mark Maloney, director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, is circulating a proposed memorandum of understanding through which the Turnpike would agree to create an active partnership with the city, each having an equal number of members on three boards that would manage the Greenway planning process, subject to final approval by the Turnpike.

Since the Greenway goes right through downtown, the city of Boston should have a considerable role in planning the project, not just maintaining it. At the same time, expert peer review of the design entries would encourage bold thinking. Also needed is more public participation.

Above all, the state and city need to get together, so that designers can have confidence they are dealing with people who know what they're doing.

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