I want to support the Gund design for the Newton North replacement. I really do. I think the design is great. The building would be a real asset for the town.
Unfortunately, the traffic circulation -- vehicle and pedestrian -- is not good. It's bad. The Gund building could not possibly look nice enough or work well enough to overcome the traffic legacy the project would create.
I don't love everything about Anatol Zuckerman's proposed alternative (PDF), but it helps illustrate how badly the Gund design manages traffic. Zuckerman proposes internal circulation on the site and allows entrance to the site from multiple locations.
Personally, I'd like to see a boulevard across the site from Walnut to Lowell with roundabouts at each end and one in the middle in front of a ceremonial and functional -- as in, it's the entrance most people use (probably because it would be across the boulevard from the parking).
It's a tough situation. They've got to build a building on one part of the property while another building remains fully functional. That doesn't leave much room for both an interesting footprint and a radical rethinking of circulation. Since keeping the present building standing is a non-negotiable requirement, the choice becomes one between an interesting footprint and
an ideal a well-thought out traffic plan.
The potential upside of a killer building design yields to the inevitable downside of bad traffic management. If the new design has a detrimental impact on traffic, we're all going to be realy unhappy for years.
So, my vote is no. Send Gund back to the drawing board with a mandate to:
- Create safe and comfortable pedestrian access from all sides of the site
- In particular, connect pedestrians to Newtonville
- Draw traffic -- particularly bus traffic -- off Walnut, Lowell, and surrounding streets in the safest, most anxiety-free manner possible