Tag: Harbor Tunnel

Seaport Square Expanded NPC Comment Letter 11/1/17

Seaport Square Expanded NPC Comment Letter 11/1/17

November 1, 2017

Matthew Beaton, Secretary
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Attn: MEPA Analyst Alex Strysky
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

Gary Uter
Boston Planning and Development Agency
One City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201

Re: Comments on the Seaport Square Expanded NPC, MEPA 14255

Dear Secretary Beaton and Mr. Uter:

Roughly 13 acres of the Seaport Square project remains to be developed. The remaining parcels primarily sit behind the major frontage of the project on Seaport Boulevard, are sandwiched between off-­ramps to the Harbor Tunnel approaches and reach from Summer Street to the water’s edge at Fan Pier. The expanded Notice of Project Change describes a project that is framed around the north-­south local streets that flank “Harbor Way,” a new and wide interior pedestrian street that will extend 5-­6 blocks between the Harbor and Summer Street.

1. The concept for Harbor Way is very strong. The major and continuous pedestrian street is planned and designed to encourage its use by large numbers of people. Harbor Way is intended to create the focus for a sort of ‘downtown’ for the Seaport District that will serve commuters, visitors and tourists. The success of Harbor Way is critical to attracting and retaining tenants and users of the corridor.

2. Generally, mid-­block crossings are provided for pedestrians.

  • At Congress Street the proposed mid-­block pedestrian crossing is protected by signalization, bump-­outs to narrow the crossing distance, and a refuge median.
  • At Autumn Lane, a privately owned minor street designated primarily for service vehicle access, the possibility of a platform or raised crossing has been mentioned.
  •  At Seaport Boulevard the pedestrian crossing is mid-­block and will be a fully signalized crossing.

3. At this time a mid-­block crossing of Summer Street seems to be missing from the plan and needs to be addressed.

  • We ask that the proponent work closely with the City and the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) to plan for a major mid-­block pedestrian crossing at the end of Harbor Way, where it would logically cross Summer Street. We hope that the MCCA will be able to take on some of the responsibility for helping to plan and fund this mid-­block crossing, as its main entrance is only a long city block away and the Harbor Way is likely to form a major attraction for the visitors to BCEC events in the future.
  •  The City should be involved, as it is already programming a major reconstruction of the cross-­section of Summer Street from the Fort Point Channel up to Boston Wharf Road, a mere half-­block away from this proposed crossing. Continuing this improvement to the BCEC should be a major objective for development of the area. The Summer Steps at the terminus of Harbor Way should not be constructed until the mid-­block pedestrian crossing is laid out and programmed for construction.
  • A disappointing aspect of development along Boston Wharf Road is the existence of the very large Park Lot C owned by the U.S. Post Office Department, which abuts Summer Street, where Boston Wharf Road passes under it. This particular site, with difficult roadway access, is unfortunately situated so that improvements in connection with the construction of Harbor Way are unlikely, even though the mid-­block crossing that is so essential for the future success of Harbor Way at its terminus with Summer Street. Ownership and physical configuration of the site mean that the proponent, the City and the Convention Center Authority will need to work together to plan and build the mid-­block crossing at this location.

4. The anchor for the south end of Harbor Way has been left partially undefined. The proponent has designed the Summer Steps to take advantage of a 24’ grade change between the site and the level of Summer Street. A supplementary elevator is provided, and the steps have a ramp to be used by cyclists. A portion of the steps could also become the seating in a performance facility, aided by electronic connections and lighting to encourage its use. A generous setback between the bottom of the stairs and Congress Street will allow for staged performances. The two sites that flank the steps are loosely defined as office and a possible hotel, and include the possibility of a 650-­seat public performance space. Without development of the two sites, the Steps may not be feasible.

5. A strong anchor for the north end of Harbor Way appears somewhat elusive. Harbor Way ends at a pavilion that would mirror District Hall across the park known as Seaport Common. The building will house a stairway and elevator leading to its roof, which will be open to the public. The two lower floors will house the Mass. Fallen Heroes Mourning Room and perhaps a restaurant. Access to the waterfront will continue along the side of the building, leading to a street to the ICA building and the harbor’s edge. Thus the ICA and its waterfront area is the true anchor at the north end of Harbor Way. Access to the large, nearby Fan Pier Public Green (another possible anchor on the north end of Harbor Way) is indirect, and a diagonal trip across the proponent’s Common Park would complete a slightly different connection between Harbor Way and the waterfront. However, this kind of connectivity to the Fan Pier Public Green appears infeasible with the present plan for the Seaport Common pavilion.

6. Preservation of the pedestrian way between Seaport Boulevard and Northern Avenue should be central to planning of the north end of Harbor Way. The proponent has proposed that service and parking access to Parcel G will be via Northern Avenue which WalkBoston believes is an appropriate location. We believe that an alternative location for this access on Harbor Way (as proposed by others) would introduce very unfortunately add parking entrances and loading docks along this quiet and pleasant pedestrian way and transform it’s character. Harbor Way is designed as a special pedestrian space and parking and loading should not occur in the space, especially since reasonably convenient and accessible alternatives are easily available. We concur with the developer’s plan to keep Harbor Way free of these vehicular functions.

7. The streets flanking Harbor Way may pose challenges for successful pedestrian-­focused development. The proponent is committed to expanding the Harbor Way walking focus by lining two parallel streets with retail uses designed to appeal to pedestrians. Boston Wharf Road and the East Service road, parallel to Harbor Way, are proposed to be lined with retail and other public attractions. As the Harbor Way development blocks come on line, retail will be a major element to attract walkers into the district. It seems likely that retail will be somewhat slow to locate on either of the parallel streets until Harbor Way is successfully launched, a challenge in today’s low energy retail environment.

  • The East Service Road in particular may be difficult to develop as a retail spine. It will provide access to and from the Third Harbor Tunnel and I-­90 with connections into and through the Seaport District. Bicycle facilities have already been eliminated from the street because they were precluded by the many highway ramp links into the Interstate system. At the same time, pedestrian connections have been expanded with wider sidewalks, leading to an expanded retail area. Given the anticipated vehicular traffic on the street, retail activities seem unlikely in the near term, especially with the competition of the nearby Harbor Way with its robust pedestrian environment.
  • Pedestrian crossings should be explored at a mid-­‐block crossing of the East Service Road at Autumn Way to connect between Harbor Way and the so-­called M-­block development on the south side of East Service Road.
  •  Boston Wharf Road may attract retail uses, but will need to contend with the fact that this two-­way street provides major roadway access to the Seaport District and is likely to become a major access route for vehicles coming to the Harbor Way pedestrian spine. Sidewalks have been widened in anticipation of this evolution of the area.
  • Special attention may be needed at two locations on Boston Wharf Road. The first is the connection to Seagreen Park – Site Q – a park on the north side of the street, where a mid-­block pedestrian crossing is likely to be needed. Second, attention is being given to a through-­building connection further south to provide additional connections with Harbor Way, and it would be appropriate to evaluate whether a mid-­block crossing is warranted at this location.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on the pedestrian environment at Seaport Square. We are happy to answer any questions you have about our comments.

Best regards,

Wendy Landman                                 Bob Sloane
Executive Director                               Senior Planner

Cc Yanni Tsipis, WS Development Jim Fitzgerald, BPDA Fred Peterson, MCCA Pat Sullivan, Seaport TMA