Comments on Tremont Crossing Environmental Notification Form

Comments on Tremont Crossing Environmental Notification Form

June 8, 2012

Secretary Ian Bowles
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
MEPA Office
Deirdre Buckley MEPA # 4900
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

RE: Tremont Crossing Environmental Notification Form

Dear Mr. Sullivan:

WalkBoston has reviewed the ENF for the Tremont Crossing proposal in Roxbury. We are impressed with the potential improvements that this project will be able to bring to the area. The pedestrian aspects of the proposal are likely to play an important role in the way in which this project functions and relates to the surrounding neighborhood and nearby public buildings.

The Tremont Crossing project includes 500,000 square feet of development with small shops and boutiques along Tremont Street, a large retail space set back from Tremont Street, 200,000 square feet of office space, an 11-story apartment building with 240 units, and a new museum for the National Center for Afro-American Artists. The development will also include a large public plaza and a multi-level parking garage with 1,700 spaces.

The site of Tremont Crossing is pivotal, as it forms a link between Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, the John O’Bryant School of Math and Science, Northeastern University, the Boston Police Department main headquarters, and the Southwest Corridor Park. The central focus of neighborhood activity and pedestrian trips is the MBTA Ruggles Station with subway, bus and commuter rail connections through the Southwest Corridor. The development site, physically separated from many of these facilities, directly adjoins Madison Park High School and the John O’Bryant School.

The proposed pedestrian facilities in the development include two wide sidewalks the full length of the site. One sidewalk will be immediately adjacent to the curb along Tremont Street, and the other sidewalk is interior to the site parallel to Tremont Street and separated from it by a very short distance.

The proposed layout at this critical location suggests the following possibilities:

  1. A considerable number of the Madison Park High School and O’Bryant School students will use the sidewalks through the site for daily access to transit at Ruggles Station. Depending on the kinds of retail incorporated into the site, students may also visit the site to shop. The school already has strong business partnerships – clinical rotations and internships with industry partners. This movement of people might be the basis for a connection between the project site and the schools, as the site could benefit from a close relationship with students. The proponent could reflect this movement and take advantage of the pedestrian activity as a basis for a physical realignment of the sidewalks toward the access ways leading to the schools.
  2. It is not clear why two parallel sidewalks are needed to serve the site. The interior sidewalk serves the backs of the retail outlets facing Tremont Street, yet provides the principal point of access to the large retail outlet and to the parking garage. It is unlikely that small retail shops will want to have two entrances – one facing Tremont Street and one facing an interior sidewalk. This may result in an unused edge of the stores – which would be unattractive and possibly create an unsafe interior corridor. We think that this two-sidewalk design is unfortunate and may generate walking patterns that are neither safe nor complementary to the proposed development. Perhaps the two sidewalks could be reduced to one along Tremont Street that serves people more directly including, of course, plazas for sitting and eating along the way, and an entrance to the large retail space that is deeper into the development.
  3. The proposed museum and cultural center is a unique feature of the development. Will it be closely related to the two adjacent schools? Will students from both schools be provided opportunities at the museum and cultural center and should there be special attention to pedestrian access from the schools? How will the Museum be “announced” to visitors who approach on foot?
  4. The major pedestrian crossings of Tremont Street will take place at intersections with Ruggles/Whittier Street, South Drive and Prentiss Street. The major crossing is likely to be at Ruggles/Whittier Street, because of the direct access it provides to the Ruggles MBTA Station. Care should be taken to provide for significant numbers of people wanting to cross Tremont Street at this location. Analysis should be performed to ascertain which crosswalk directions will work best for moving pedestrians safely. Analysis should also be undertaken to determine if a crosswalk is needed at South Drive, in view of the nearby Prentiss Street crossing.

Thank you for the opportunity to review this proposal. Please feel free to contact us with questions you may have, and we look forward to hearing how our suggestions are incorporated into subsequent revisions to this plan.


Wendy Landman
Executive Director

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