Greater Greater Washington

Public Spaces


Transportation across the nation: Mistakes of the '70s edition


Worst building & plaza ever. Photo by Joe Dunckley on Flickr.
Bulb-outs in Boston? Boston's record on livable streets and Smart Growth is decidedly mixed, with good projects surrounded by bad transportation practices. There may be hope if the ideas in this Globe article come to Boston. Via Streetsblog.

New London corrects 1970s mistake: Everyone regretted the concrete redesign of New London, Connecticut's public plaza, "The Parade." Now, they're restoring it, reports the Courant. I hate to harp, but I can't help but think if it were here, we'd have landmarked the thing. Now, will Boston fix their 1970s plaza mistake? Via Planetizen.

Lemonade stands violate zoning: The mayor of Clayton, CA has shut down a produce stand run by an 11-year-old girl and her 3-year-old sister, selling extra vegetables out of their garden. Mayor Gregg Manning told ABC, ""They may start out with a little card-table and selling a couple of things, but then who is to say what else they have. Is all the produce made there, do they make it themselves? Are they going to have eggs and chickens for sale next?" Via BoingBoing.

California passes anti-sprawl bill: The California legislature passed a bill to allocate transportation dollars based on greenhouse gas emissions, according to the LA Times. Does this mean more transit, fewer roads, or just roads in denser areas? Will it work? California has a parking cash-out bill with loopholes the size of Los Angeles. But at the very least, the symbolic impact is important. Via T4America.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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Boston City Hall Plaza is a disaster under everyone's critera, although I rather like the building. It has authority and mystery with makes it a compelling structure. If only the plaza wasn't actually a giant culvert.

Nevertheless, PPS has suffered since the death of William Whyte, in that they always apply his rubrics and research to spaces. What they don't consider is regional variation and cultural changes, so they have declared a lot of spaces bad when they are actually pretty good. Places like the Tate embankment, Parc de la Villete, Dupont circle, and a few others are much better places than they want you to believe. Conversely, many of the places they like are less interesting than they suggest.

by The King of Spain on Aug 23, 2008 3:01 pm • linkreport

FYI, the link to the LA Times story is broken.

by Adam on Aug 23, 2008 5:23 pm • linkreport

Thanks, fixed.

by David Alpert on Aug 23, 2008 7:08 pm • linkreport

The plaza doesnt look that bad really, it could have been much much better but its not the worst

by kk on Aug 23, 2008 7:51 pm • linkreport

My impression of Boston is of a city that is blessed with a lot of legacy advantages (transportation, density, etc.) but is populated by people with more of a suburban mindset who will happily trade transit for more car lanes (e.g., the E Line deconstruction).

Maybe it had something to do with the parochial nature of the population. If you live there because you grew up there, it less likely that you're the type that "chooses urbanism"

by Reid on Aug 25, 2008 12:47 pm • linkreport

When I see the Boston City Hall plaza, I always think of its more scaled-down cousin, the plaza in front of the Sun Bank/Police substation in Adams Morgan, where 18th and Columbia meet, which i call the Plaza of Urban Renewal. What a waste of public space it is to anchor such a wonderful plaza with a police station and a bank! It testifies to how full of promise the space is that despite the police station/bank problem, and the general terrible design logic, it's still relatively transited and populated at different hours of the day, not counting weekend nights and during the sunday morning farmers market. what used to be there? i think it was a movie theater.... at any rate, if the city saw fit to jane-jacobs the Adams Morgan Plaza of Urban Renewal and reclaim it for the greater good--allow mix uses to take root there, allow vendors and a newsstand to set up shop in the plaza itself, install public art and a Smart Bike station, and (dare we dream?) a street car station--then we'd be getting somewhere.

by Tony on Aug 25, 2008 11:57 pm • linkreport

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