Thursday, October 23, 2008

Paragon Place, not as bad as I led you to believe

While I have serious issues with the proposed Paragon Place on Needham Street, it would be incorrect to say — as I do in Chrissie Long's article on the Board of Alderman's approval of the Paragon Place special permit petition — that the design reviewed by the Board of Aldermen on Monday night has "no meaningful pedestrian connection." In fact, the developer has made some recent changes that should materially improve pedestrian circulation with the new Filene's Basement building and its neighbors.

So, what gives? Did Chrissie misquote me? Or did I misspeak? Neither. Here are the gruesome details ...

In the article, Chrissie quotes — accurately — language from a letter I wrote to the board last week:

What should we desire for 151,618 sq. ft. in one of our prime commercial districts? Certainly not a total of four curb cuts and no meaningful pedestrian connection. But, that's what we'll be left with according to the Paragon Place proposal, and the proposal leaves little opportunity for improvement if either Paragon Towers or Baza Supermarket is developed in the future. Not only does the Paragon Place proposal isolate the three properties, it consigns these properties to isolation for the foreseeable future. (Emphasis added.)

That language is actually an excerpt from a letter I wrote to the Land Use committee on 10/7 that I included in the letter to the board. In the letter to the full board, I added the following note to the paragraph:

[Please note that the developer has made improvements to the pedestrian connectivity since this letter.]

"[T]his letter" refers to the 10/7 letter to Land Use. Confused yet?

Between my writing to the Land Use committee and then to the Board of Alderman, the pedestrian connectivity of the Paragon Place design improved in at least three areas. Based on the current design, Paragon Place will not be completely isolated. It promises to have some pretty good pedestrian connectivity.

I can't really blame Chrissie for the omission. I included the paragraph in my letter to the board because I felt it was necessary to provide context for another excerpt from the 10/7 letter, my recommendation that the board require Paragon Place to grant an easement to its neighbor Paragon Towers, which easement might convince and allow Paragon Towers to close two curb cuts (driveway entrances) on Needham Street. But, I probably could have been more clear about the improved pedestrian accommodations.

Now, about that easement ...

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