Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chestnut Hill Square -- designed in danger

Probably the key connection in the entire Chestnut Hill Square plan is a connection not made: the connection between the north retail building (A) that runs along Boylston St./Rte. 9 and the residential/retail building (B) to the south and east.

In its pedestrian circulation plan (the image above), New England Development has not include a crossing between the two buildings. While it seems odd to leave out such a short and obvious crossing, it's a matter of safety: a crosswalk there would be too close to the development entrance.

Omitting a crossing, NED is proposing that people wishing to go from A to B will go south through the parking lot to the south retail, cross two driveways, and walk down the residential retail building. In fact, one of three things will happen, two of them bad. As NED hopes, some people will take the long march, which will keep them on foot, in the development, and a little healthier. More likely, people will be put off by the hike and not go to both spots in the same trip, which is bad for the development.

But some people will act like pedestrians often do, and simply cross the driveway. While pedestrian accommodations encourage walking, the lack of accommodations don't necessarily prevent walking. For an illustration of this truth, just wait a few minutes along any major street in Newton when sidewalks full of snow force people on foot into the road.

By creating demand for a crossing at a spot that they say is too dangerous to provide a crossing, NED has designed in a dangerous situation. The developer ought to be obligated to eliminate the danger.

Fortunately, the solution seems to be straightforward: create an overlap between the north retail building and the residential/retail building farther away from the development entrance, by moving the north retail building south (into the site), making the north retail building deeper, by creating a deeper sidewalk-cum-pedestrian plaza, or some combination of all three. Moving the whole building south is consistent with providing a better sidewalk along Boylston. Making the building deeper is consistent with breaking the two buildings into one to relieve the blank facade along Boylston.

But, somehow, NED has to connect the dots.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This all feels like excellent, detailed analysis of each individual tree ... rather than a high-level analysis of: Isn't this an insane amount of overdevelopment that is going to destroy the neighborhoods, gridlock Route 9, endanger pedestrians, compound the disaster of Route 9 sprawl-a-rama, and spread traffic disasters throughout Newton and Brookline? How do we make this discussion more along the lines of what, if anything, should be allowed to be built here??