Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A long walk

Let us welcome Google Map's Street View with a look west at the frontage of the proposed Chestnut Hill Square site.

I hope this shows the opportunity here. It's a long stretch of road, so it's a blank canvas to create whatever we want to make of it. And, it currently has a very pedestrian-friendly shoulder.

The only reason it's not already a pedestrian way is the lack of anything to walk to. In other words, first-floor commercial uses.


Eric said...

I completely agree that ANY development should connect to the businesses around Hammond, as well as the Upper Mall and the Atrium. My question is that this "walkable urban" idea seems to clash with your arguements regarding FAR and the size and scope of the proposed NED project. Maybe I just didn't quite understand your position. Would you be in favor of a 12- 15 story tower as long as it was pedestrian friendly and mixed use?

Sean Roche said...
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Sean Roche said...

A fair question.

As a starting point, any development in a commercial district, regardless of proposed density, should meet the existing streets with a facade of first-floor retail. If you don't have that, you're not going to promote pedestrian activity.

On the Boylston Street site, the developer is currently proposing an essentially blank wall on the Boylston Street frontage and having pedestrian-friendly amenities on (most of) the internal circulation. The development turn its back back on Boylston Street, eliminating the very real opportunity to make a very nice, well-used, pedestrian-oriented street-scape.

This opportunity is independent of density and height.

Unquestionably, density and height are big factors in making the site walkable urban. The more density, particularly residential density, the greater the baseline population of potential pedestrians.

But, you have to balance that with the supporting transportation infrastructure. At a certain point, density and, to a lesser extent, height are going to generate car traffic that is more than the area can bear. The area has little meaningful transit.

If, as New England Development suggests, the way to manage the traffic is to widen Boylston Street, that would have a direct bearing on the pedestrian-friendliness. Eight-lanes along the CHS frontage means less room for roadway shoulders, a tree buffer, and wide enough sidewalks.

Combine that with a blank wall and it stops being walkable urban and it turns into any other suburban mall.

Eric said...

Thanks Sean. As usual your answers are well thought out and informative.