Comments on proposal for development of One Bromfield Street

Comments on proposal for development of One Bromfield Street

July 29, 2016

Brian Golden
Christopher Tracy
Boston Redevelopment Authority
City Hall Plaza
Boston, MA 02201

Re: Comments on proposal for development of One Bromfield Street

Dear Mr. Golden and Mr. Tracy:

WalkBoston reviews proposed public and private developments for their potential impacts on walker’s safety, convenience and amenity in municipalities across the Commonwealth.

We are particularly interested in the One Bromfield Street proposal because of its significant size and consequent effects on the pedestrian network in and around the Ladder Blocks in Downtown Boston. We recognize that the project proponent has been asked to reconsider the currently existing proposal to examine significant changes that might integrate the project more successfully into its proposed setting. In keeping with the process of reconsidering the designs of the project, we offer the following comments:

1. We are concerned that the project will significantly alter pedestrian patterns on surrounding streets. Impacts on Province Street are especially likely because so many of the project’s vehicular access points take place at its intersection with the narrow Province Court.

  •  All vehicles passing through Province Court have the potential for disrupting pedestrian flows on the sidewalks along Province Street, especially abutting this project’s site. Pedestrians will have to wait for vehicle movements from Province Street into Province Court in substantial numbers given the proposed size of the building. In addition, queues of vehicles may stretch from Province Court toward School Street – the principal access to the site – causing congestion of vehicles and potentially significant hazards for the many pedestrians using the businesses and residences along School Street, Province Street and Bromfield Street.
  • Trucks trying to get to the loading docks will have to maneuver forward on Province Street to get into a position where they can back into the docks located off Province Court. They will need to back in slowly because of the severe physical limitations of the access path. This may cause delays and safety issues for the many pedestrians walking on Province Street, and also contribute to traffic backing up along the narrow street.
  • Delivery vehicles will turn from Province Street into Province Court to get to the porte cochere area (also connected to Province Court) where there are slots reserved for them. Delays in deliveries caused by drivers carrying materials into or out of the building may cause delivery vehicles to gather in Province Street awaiting a slot in the porte cochere area.
  • Drivers of vehicles heading toward the parking area within the building are to be served by only two elevators a few feet off Province Court. Waiting for space on the elevators will result in vehicles waiting on Province Street, potentially double-parked on the street. Given the other activities taking place on Province Court, it is very unlikely that private vehicles will be able to wait for elevators within the narrow access provided by Province Court.
  • All privately-operated taxi or other carrying services will pass through this intersection into the porte cochere. Any congestion within the porte cochere will cause waiting vehicles to stand outside on Province Street prior to moving into the building.

2. The project emphasizes vehicular access.

  • The focus of vehicular access on both Province Court and Province Street will result in new traffic patterns and new vehicles that will be competing with pedestrian traffic on the narrow, pedestrian-scale streets in the area. Traffic congregating on Province Street will severely limit successful access to the project while enlarging its impacts on its surroundings.
  • Parking for the project’s residences and businesses should be scrutinized to ascertain if the scale is appropriate. Limiting the size of the building would reduce the need for some of the parking. Examining and detailing the market for residences in this location may result in a lesser need for so many spaces. Providing customer parking for any of the businesses appears unnecessary. It is difficult to discern why anyone would drive to this location and require parking on-site, given the difficulty of driving here and the location at the heart of the region’s transit system.

3. Bromfield Street has retained the look and feel of the historic Ladder District, which has been a prominent feature of planning for Downtown Boston for decades.

  • Buildings generally have a modest number of floors, reflecting a pattern of walk-up offices and residences. All buildings are small-scale, occupying only a few feet of street frontage thus allowing a clustering of many businesses into a short and very walkable street. Bromfield Street contained, in the recent past, a small cluster of owner-operated camera stores, as well as a few stores focusing on hobbies such as stamp collecting. Restaurants have occupied some sites, with new operations likely as Downtown recovers its economic footing.
  • The proposal’s frontage on Bromfield Street is out of scale with the existing street. The proposed massive opening of the vehicular exit on Bromfield is inappropriate, given present and anticipated traffic patterns of Downtown Boston, especially low-traffic ways like Bromfield Street. Any vehicular access should be kept narrow and unobtrusive in keeping with the pedestrian scale of the district. Small-scale shops on both sides of a vehicular exit would help integrate the street frontage into the historic fabric of Bromfield Street.
  • It seems unlikely that traffic on Bromfield Street will grow from sources other than this project. The pedestrianization of Washington Street will remain. New vehicular traffic from Franklin Street remains an unknown. Consideration is needed for potential access to the project site from Franklin Street – which in the recent past was used only for taxis and buses. Maintaining these limits on traffic will help retain the pedestrian feel of the street and actually make it safer for pedestrians by limiting the number of vehicles that will travel there.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important project. It seems clear that reducing the scale of the project and its accompanying vehicular access and trips is needed to reduce negative impacts on local pedestrian patterns and facilities. We hope that the City and the proponent will keep walkers prominently in mind during revisions to this project – the quality of life for pedestrians is what gives this neighborhood and this development the value that it has for existing and future residents, neighbors and visitors.


Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Comments are closed.