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Rose Kennedy Greenway: Paradise or Work in Progress?

Posted by Noah Guiney  August 21, 2013 01:10 PM

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An urban oasis... surrounded by highways.

Five years after it was unveiled, the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway has become a huge hit with Bostonians and tourists. It doesn't boast the museums and permanent structures that once were promised -- though a custom carousel is opening this month -- but attendance has increased sevenfold since 2009, according to a recent Globe story. Still, many urban planners see the Greenway in its current state as a missed opportunity, a shadow of a world-class park.

While it's easy to love what we have, it's worth considering -- and crowdsourcing -- ideas to make the Greenway even better. We asked a some urban designers and big-city thinkers whether they'd change the park, and how. Their answers are below, along with some models of great urban parks. If you have your own knockout idea for the space, let us know in the comments, or tweet your suggestions at #BostonGreenway.

Fill the space with temporary attractions

FredKent06-150x150.jpgThe design world has evolved into different silos. You have the architects and you have the landscape architects, and what’s really missing is something in between: Move away from just a "greenway" and focus instead on a more multi-use type of destination. You could do it on a temporary basis, which is what we’re doing in Detroit. You could bring in some temporary kiosks, you might add a small market. We’re working on a beach space in the center of Detroit where there might be some games going on. It becomes less defined by landscape and more defined by uses. Then you could create destinations that complement the weather at different times of year. Instead of a divider, it would be a connector.
Fred Kent, @Fred_Kent
Founder and president, Project for Public Spaces

Keep cars off the side streets

clip_image001.jpgThis project is a great urban planning feat and with time it will become even better. I think the most challenging parts are the design of the north-south surface roads, and how there are too many streets that bisect the Greenway east - west, making it fragmented and chopped. The roads are car-oriented rather than being an integral part of the Greenway -they are too wide and hard for pedestrians to cross. There was an important attempt to reconnect the neighborhoods on both sides of the Greenway, but it was not necessary to do this with wide, vehicular streets. As installed, the cross streets interrupt the fluidity of the park, so it doesn’t feel like a "greenway" in that sense. What might happen eventually is that some of these streets will be retrofitted to make them more pedestrian-oriented, or maybe less car-dominated. I hope it will.
Eran Ben-Joseph @MITdusp
Professor and Head of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT

Recalibrate success

Steve Poftak.jpgThe success or failure of the Greenway depends on your yardstick. Is it a cohesive urban open space that stacks up on a global scale? Hardly.
Are people using it and having fun? Absolutely.
As you walk through the Greenway, its hard to believe that the original plans involved having four major institutions built on a narrow ribbon of green, crosscut and rimmed with traffic, then pocked by ramps. Instead, the Greenway got built piecemeal – a collection of parks, water features, seating areas, and public art. It’s not coherent and not all of it works.
The progression from Central Artery to the current Greenway has been so slow that it can be hard to remember what was there before. And the jurisdictional chopped salad (Conservancy + MassPike + EOT + BRA +…….) did not make planning or funding easy.
But it’s lively and populated with– tourists, downtown workers, local residents, and residents from other neighborhoods. And that’s a success by my measure.
Steve Poftak, @spoftak
Executive director, Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston

Outside inspiration: Bike obstacle course at Brooklyn's Domino Sugar Factory Lot

Pedestrian mall at Barcelona's La Rambla

DIY attractions on Manhattan's High Line

A temporary beach in Detroit's Campus Martius Park

Close to home: The hazards of a long, thin park


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