Comment Letter on Kenmore Hotel Project (560-574 Commonwealth Avenue)

Comment Letter on Kenmore Hotel Project (560-574 Commonwealth Avenue)

June 27, 2019

Brian Golden, Director
Boston Redevelopment Authority
Attn: Tim Czerwienski
One City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201-1007

Re: Kenmore Hotel, 560-574 Commonwealth Avenue, WalkBoston Comments

Dear Director Golden:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Kenmore Hotel Project.

WalkBoston believes that the re-configuration of Kenmore Square proposed by the proponent will significantly enhance the environment and improve the safety and convenience of people walking to and through Kenmore Square. It will also create new pedestrian-focused civic space that is presently missing from this important Boston crossroads – where many residents, transit users, students, Red Sox fans and Boston Marathon fans will find new space to enhance their experience of Kenmore Square.

We believe that the re-configuration will also significantly improve the safety of bicyclists and drivers, with its simplified pattern of movement. Based on the traffic analysis provided in the DPIR it also appears that the new traffic pattern will improve the levels of service for vehicles, potentially providing a benefit for the many bus riders who pass through the Square each day.

We are very pleased that the proponent has proposed building a hotel without on-site parking or below-grade service access – either of which would require a curb cut interrupting the sidewalk. With Kenmore Square’s good transit access the hotel will truly reflect an urbanist vision for the City which we applaud. While we have not reviewed any financial information about the project, we wonder whether the decision to forgo the construction of parking spaces (@ approximately $25,000 – $30,000/space) has provided the proponent with the financial capacity to build the extensive plaza and streetscape improvements that are proposed. If this is the case, we hope that future Boston development projects will be encouraged by the City to take advantage of this opportunity.

We urge the City to work with the proponent to bring this new vision for Kenmore Square to fruition.

We have several questions and comments about the project that we urge the City to work with the proponent to address.

  1. The new, much safer, bicycle circulation system is an important improvement for Kenmore Square. We urge the design team to carefully design the western edge of the site to actively discourage eastbound cyclists on Commonwealth Avenue from riding through the plaza area rather than taking the New Road-Beacon Street-Commonwealth Avenue bike route that is the intended route.
  2. Based on the wind study results presented at the June 19 public meeting, several spots on the plaza may be quite windy. We urge the proponent to develop designs that both reduce the wind and avoid the use of walls along Commonwealth Avenue. We believe that walls will serve to privatize the feel of the space and may also cause unintended noise impacts (wooshing sounds) as traffic passes by the intermittent walls.
  3. We hope that the plaza will include seating that has a softer feel than that which seems to be illustrated to date – seating that invites people to linger and enjoy the great people-watching.
  4. For how many years has the proponent committed to maintaining and programming the Plaza?
  5. It appears from the site plan that there are two left turn lanes from westbound Commonwealth Avenue feeding into one receiving lane on Brookline Avenue – is this intended, or is the site plan incorrect? In addition, westbound Commonwealth Avenue traffic will need very clear lane markings (and perhaps a tweaking of the shape of the nose of the plaza) to ensure that traffic does not mistakenly head westbound on Beacon Street.

We look forward to a significantly improved walking experience in Kenmore Square when the project is realized.

Please let us know if you have any questions about our comments.

Best regards,

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

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