My feedback on the "armature" of A/B North

To follow up on this post, I sent the feedback below to the BRA and their consultants. You can send your thoughts on these subjects to and The CWP Armature worksheet distributed at the meeting is at the ABNNF website.

The items from the worksheet start with a '*'
My responses follow with a 'o'
For a more readable format, see 'CWP Armature Worksheet - Harry Mattison comments.pdf' at the ABNNF website


* Transform Western Avenue into a boulevard lined with trees
* Transform Cambridge Street into a landscaped boulevard/gateway to the neighborhood
* Develop Everett Street into a green corridor connecting to the River and across the Turnpike

o The terminology in these 3 items is unclear. What is the difference between a "boulevard lined with trees", "landscaped boulevard/gateway", and "green corridor"?
o There is consistent support for planting trees, improving sidewalks, creating better bicycling conditions (bike lanes where space allows and other strategies where space for bike lanes cannot be created), and keeping the neighborhood clean (well-maintained public trash & recycling containers)
o Building height & style, ground floor, and upper floor uses along these roads needs more discussion, and may not be consistent for the entirety of each road. For example, there are many detached one and two family homes on Everett Street. Near the intersection with Western Ave, Everett Street has a more commercial nature. And between Western Ave and the River, Everett Street could have another character.
o North Harvard St, Soldiers Field Road, and Birmingham Parkway also need to be considered.

* Maintain the residential character of local streets

o Instead of just maintaining the existing character of local streets, there are several ways that the character of local streets should be improved including:
? Bury overhead utility lines
? Plant street trees
? Eliminate front yard parking
? Increase safety for pedestrians and bicyclists

* Establish truck routes/restrictions to minimize heavy truck through traffic

o Maybe, depends on where the truck routes would be. A regional approach is needed and should consider roads such as Greenough Boulevard in Watertown & Cambridge.

* Whenever possible, limit number of vehicular lanes to one in each direction (except at

o What are the impacts of intersections with more than one lane of traffic in each direction? How will pedestrians comfortably cross 4+ lanes?
o Vehicular lane configuration on major roads, particularly on the two overpasses where Cambridge Street crosses the Mass Pike. Lane merges and lane shifts contribute to significant traffic backups that could be eliminated with minimal changes to the existing roads.

Pedestrian and Bicycle Routes

* Seek the creation of public walkways and bikeways through the neighborhood, including new developments and the Harvard Campus

o What is a bikeway and how is the word "route" being used in this context? In general, bikes should be ridden on our regular roads, not on special "bike only" paths.
o Instead of "routes" through new developments and the Harvard Campus there should be standard public streets with sidewalks for pedestrians and, if traffic volume requires them, on-street bike lanes for bicyclists.

* Maximize neighborhood access to the Charles River and DCR parklands at various points through safe and inviting pedestrian and bicycle crossings (including Everett and Telford)

o These crossings should not be limited to Everett and Telford. Cambridge Street, North Harvard Street, and both ends of Western Ave should also have safe and inviting pedestrian and bicycle crossings.
o These crossings should be at-grade wherever possible

* Create and improve pedestrian and bicycle connections across the Turnpike

o Better connections across the Turnpike are also needed for automobiles. These should be planned together with better crossings for pedestrians and bicyclists.

* Improve the pedestrian environment along Everett Street, enhance connections to the river and over Turnpike

o The Everett Street fork between Aldie and Adamson Street needs to be improved for pedestrians, bicyclists, and automobiles.
o The Boston Public Works yard on Everett Street needs to be relocated
o A continuous, straight sidewalk is needed along the Harvard property at the north end of Everett Street (1230 Soldiers Field Road)
o The connection to the river cannot stop at the end of Everett Street. It must include improvements to Soldiers Field Road and the Herter Park parking lot across from Everett Street that create a safe and welcoming entrance for bicyclists and pedestrians.

* Consider the provision of bicycle lanes along Everett Street

Open Space and Amenities

* Plant more street trees in commercial areas and corridors

o Better maintenance is also needed for the streets trees that we already have in these areas. Dead and unhealthy trees need to be replaced and young trees need more watering.

* Protect/maintain the existing neighborhood tree cover

o A significant number of new trees should be planted on local streets to increase the existing tree cover. Burying and rerouting overhead utility lines should be coordinated with new tree planting to provide the most benefit and create more locations where large trees can be planted.

* Seek opportunities for more tot lots, pocket parks, and community gardens

o New open space should not be limited to these uses. Larger parks and open space designed for passive and active use by adults are also needed.

* Create green buffer / landscaped screening along the Turnpike and Lincoln Street

o A green buffer is inadequate to shield the neighborhood from the Turnpike. A solid barrier wall is needed and should be complemented by a green buffer. The existing chain-link fence should be removed after a barrier wall is replaced. Overhead utility lines should be buried as part of this project.

* Complete development of Library Park as a highly open public space

o The design and construction schedule of Library Park should be accelerated so construction can be completed in 2009. Before construction begins, public access should be allowed to the existing grass field.

* Improve access, visibility, and amenities at Smith Field

o It is unclear that the current location of Smith Field is consistent with the shared vision for Barry's Corner. A more fundamental reconsideration, including a partial or complete relocation, would be appropriate.

* Seek the creation of inviting public realm and public activity nodes within the university
campus areas

o These areas should be unambiguously public and welcoming, preferably bordering a public street on at least one side. "Semi-public" courtyards or other areas designed like the current Harvard Business School campus should be avoided.

* Enhance the public realm along the river's edge to provide continuity of public access
* To the extent possible, cluster open space with public uses to promote public access

o How clustering promotes public access is not clear. An over-concentration of open space in some areas and a dearth of it elsewhere may not be desirable.

* Seek opportunities to create a system of walkways, bikeways, parks, and playgrounds connecting the neighborhood east-west (including the Holton Street corridor and future development)

o As mentioned earlier, in our urban setting "walkways" should generally be sidewalks along public streets and "bikeways" should be the travel lane of quieter public streets or bike lanes on busier public streets.

Residential Areas

* Protect the residential character of existing neighborhood areas (building typologies, density, height)
* Protect existing historic resources and contributing buildings
* Promote mixed use/residential uses along Western Ave
* Create a range of densities for new housing in ways and locations that enhance community livability (Western Ave, Brighton Mills/Holton Street Corridor)

o What is the proposed "range of densities"? How will increased density be accompanied by improved transportation and other services needed to improve quality of life and mitigate the undesirable consequences related to people living in conditions of greater density (noise, trash, rodents...)?

* Create careful transitions in scale between existing residential areas and new development

o The word "careful" needs more precise definition.

* Integrate new Harvard housing and community housing to form lively new neighborhood

o New Harvard housing should contain an appropriate mix of rental/student housing and ownership units to provide a stabilizing affect for the existing neighborhood which has a very low ownership rate (20%) and high resident turnover.
o Harvard wrote in its Allston Life Task Force report that " Faculty surveys suggest that faculty members are looking for a different kind of ownership than Harvard is well positioned to offer." This statement, if it is still relevant, should be more fully understood and questioned.

* Support the preservation and improvement of existing singe-, two-, and three-family housing stock

Shopping and Services

* Create localized nodes of neighborhood retail along Western Ave

o The need to divide retail space into "nodes" is not clear. What will exist between these nodes?
o Harvard plans to create 5,000 new jobs in Allston in the next 20 years and bring at least several hundred new students to live and/or study here. 2,800 new units of housing have been proposed in North Allston/North Brighton. This growth is in addition to the existing residential population, 2,000 students at Harvard Business School, 1,000 Harvard faculty and staff at Harvard Business School and Harvard Athletics, and the people in 8,000 vehicles each day that drive on Western Ave.
o The magnitude of this population suggests that a continuous retail district on Western Ave at least from Travis Street to Waverly Street (6/10 of a mile) is a reasonable expectation. This would be comparable to Coolidge Corner and the ground-floor retail along Harvard Street between Thorndike and Vernon Streets.

* Create clustered activity node with neighborhood-oriented uses at Barry's Corner

o What does "neighborhood oriented" mean and how is that different than "university oriented"? How can we integrate and create uses and places oriented to both the neighborhood and university instead of one or the other?

* Establish, program, and define character of activity node at Barry's Corner
* Create clustered activity node with neighborhood oriented uses at Brighton Mills

o It is not clear why Brighton Mills and Barry's Corner (which are only 1/4 mile from each other) should be divided into distinct nodes.

* Create small mixed use/retail blocks at Brighton Mills; avoid shopping malls and large format retail

o While I am not a fan of the urban design associated with the former Kmart at Brighton Mills, it did meet many valuable neighborhood shopping needs for clothing, personal items, household goods, etc. We should discuss how these needs can be met in the future with a mix of small, medium, and large format retail.

Civic and Cultural Institutions

* Seek opportunities to promote the creation of art and cultural venues

o Obviously Harvard isn't going to build museums and performing art centers only because the BRA or Allston community wants them. But hopefully, Harvard can be encouraged to return to the bold thinking in 2004 that led to Harvard's considering as much as 700,000 square feet of museums and art space in Allston.
o The public orientation of these venues should be made clear. How they will serve both Harvard's academic mission and the interests of the general public?

Community Programs and Resources

* Work with the City and local institutions to create/expand workforce training programs

o Harvard should be explicitly included in this initiative.

* Seek/promote community-based uses at Barry's Corner (interim activation)

o This should not be limited to Barry's Corner. Instead it should include all under- utilized property in North Allston and North Brighton, regardless of owner.
o The time span of "interim" activities should be clarified and these should not be a substitute for aggressively pursuing more permanent and significant uses in Barry's Corner.


* Enhance mass transit in order to curb driving

o The North Allston Strategic Framework identified "opening Harvard shuttles to neighborhood residents" as a possible "pre-development" activity. It should be considered in the current phase of community planning.

* Consider provision of dedicated bus lanes

o This seems to contradict the item above: "limit number of vehicular lanes to one in each direction"
o Dedicated bus lanes are one of many elements consider as part of a Bus Rapid Transit system ( and all of the possible methods of reducing travel time for bus riders should be evaluated. The benefits and costs of dedicated bus lanes should be enumerated and quantified.
o General improvements to roads that reduce travel time for all vehicles should be given priority.

* Improve the 66 bus route service

o The service of all local buses should be considered. Modifications to the location of bus stops has long been discussed and is one of many ways that we should attempt to improve bus service on Western Ave, North Harvard St, and Cambridge St.


  1. “How clustering promotes public access is not clear.”
    Exactly how Harvard’s open space on campus is not connected to public access/ common public routes thereby limiting public use. Clustering means to combine open spaces with common public use and public access. It also limits future subdivision and construction.
    Burying powerlines isn't the panacea that many people claim:

    And your bikeway and path comments blew my mind. Have you been to a European city that takes full advantage of bicycle transportation and urban pathways? As someone who risks life and limb every day on my bike with drunks, Boston cabbies, and the oblivious people opening their car doors into the bike lane; I find your opinion asinine. Bikes belong on the road no more than a jogger does. Amsterdam, Denmark even Portland Oregon combine the best transportation system with the urban setting.

  2. tchok13,

    I have never been to Amsterdam, Denmark, or Oregon. If you have, maybe you would be willing to constructively educate me and others about how what they have done could be applied to A/B North instead of resorting to crude name calling.