What's hot and not on waterfront and why it matters for Allston's future

Everyone interested in Harvard's Science Complex proposal, the future of Western Ave and Barry's Corner, and the idea of a vibrant, permeable campus should read this Steve Bailey column from last Friday's Globe - What's hot and not on waterfront.

He describes a walk along Boston Harbor and writes about what works and what doesn't work to make a city alive and thriving. Here is some of what he says:
"Programming works. So does blurring the lines between the public and the private. Barricades and fences definitely do not work. Potential is ours for the taking -- but only if we aim higher...

The red-brick plaza behind the Boston Harbor Hotel, with the boats and the band and the people and the magnificent water view, is the single best space in the city. With the hotel packed and a deluxe double room going for $650 a night, these people are making gobs of money. But telling where the public space ends
and the private space begins is hard to know... But it works, and works well. Tuesday is Motown night on the barge. You can dance to swing music on Wednesday, hear blues on Thursday, and see a classic movie on Friday. Drop a bundle for dinner and drinks or watch for free on the steps...

The neighboring Intercontinental Hotel, by contrast, has a long way to go. There's a nice green lawn, but no one is there. What's private is private. The entrance to the outdoor cafe is through the hotel, not from the waterfront. All the outdoor seating is sealed off by large planters. There is no programming at all and nothing happening on the water itself... We're stuck with the hotel's glass facade better suited to a Houston inter state..."
It seems clear that Harvard would prefer with nice green lawns and nobody there. The Science Complex public space can only be accessed through the lobby, not directly from the Western Ave sidewalk. Each iteration of their design removes public space and no effort at all is made to enliven the east, west, and south sides of the project.

So it was great to hear Kairos Shen, the BRA's Director of Planning, at Monday's Task Force meeting talking about wanting the Science Complex and Western Ave to avoid following in the footsteps of dead zones like Kendall Sq. It remains to be seen how much Harvard will be persuaded and how hard the City will pursue this.

If this matters to you, please write Kairos (Kairos.Shen.BRA@cityofboston.gov) and Gerald Autler (Gerald.Autler.bra@cityofboston.gov) and let them know.

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