Category: Beacon Hill Times

Frances Appleton Pedestrian Bridge Across Storrow Opens to the Public

 

The $12.5 million Frances Appleton Pedestrian Bridge – a 230-foot-long, steel arch span that links Beacon Hill/Charles Circle to the Charles River Esplanade – is now open to the public.

The 14-foot-wide, 750-foot-long, multi-use bridge was constructed as part of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s (MassDOT) $300-million renovation of the Longfellow Bridge, which links Charles Circle in Boston to Central Square in Cambridge via the Charles Circle. The Appleton is a signature bridge in the City of Boston with its elegant steel arch span, as well as the first fully accessible, ADA pedestrian bridge over Storrow Drive.

The old, existing footbridge is slated for demolition within the next two weeks, according to Miguel Rosales, the architect for both the Appleton and Longfellow bridges, as well as president and founder of Boston-based Rosales  Partners.

 

“As the designer of the Appleton Pedestrian Bridge, I was thrilled to recently cross it for the first time,” Rosales wrote. “The beautiful bridge floats over the park with stunning views of the Charles River.   It is very light, visually pleasing and the first ADA accessible 14-feet wide link in the area.  The main arch soars over Storrow Drive with a single, elegant gesture, which is inspired by the historic arches of the adjacent Longfellow Bridge.

“I am looking forward to having the bridge fully completed including walking surface treatments, hardscape elements and landscaping including the addition of new shade trees in the next few months.  I am confident that Bostonians and visitors alike will enjoy using the innovative bridge for generations to come,” Rosales wrote.

Michael Nichols, executive director of the Esplanade Association, said, “We are excited that this breathtaking new footbridge has opened to make the Esplanade more accessible to visitors. Representatives from our organization advocated for this vital new connection from the early stages of the Longfellow Bridge restoration and we are so grateful to MassDOT, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, former State Rep. Marty Walz, current Rep. Jay Livingstone, Miguel Rosales of Rosales + Partners, and many other partners for their hard work to finally make the Fanny Appleton bridge a reality.”

DCR Commissioner Leo Roy said, “The Baker-Polito administration remains committed to providing residents and visitors with opportunities to safely visit the Commonwealth’s state parks system. With the completion of the Frances Appleton Bridge, [DCR] is thrilled that pedestrians and bicyclists will have increased access to the Charles River Esplanade. Furthermore, the completion of the Frances Appleton Bridge serves as a major accomplishment, and is a welcome addition to the metro Boston area.”

The bridge is named after the wife of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the most widely known and best-loved American poets of his lifetime. He used to cross the Charles River from Cambridge to Beacon Hill in the 1840s while he was courting “Fanny” Appleton, and the new bridge complements the historic Longfellow Bridge as a symbol of their union.

Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial to be Restored through Unique Partnership

Mayor Martin J. Walsh joined representatives from National Park Service, Friends of the Public Garden and the Museum of African American History on the Boston Common Friday to sign a Memorandum of Understanding committing to jointly restore the Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial.

Situated inside the Common on the corner of Beacon and Park streets, the bas-relief memorial created by venerable American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens will undergo a $2.8 million restoration in 2019, including a complete rehabilitation of its bronze sculpture. Portions of the park will be cordoned off and closed to the public during the five- to six-month construction period, officials said.

The memorial was installed in 1897 to commemorate Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th – the first regiment of black troops recruited from the North to fight for their freedom in the Civil War.  On May 28, 1863, the 54th Massachusetts infantry made its way for Beaufort, S.C., where it became part of the X Corps commanded by Major General David Hunter. Afterwards, the 54th took part in operations in Charleston, S.C. including the Battle of Grimball’s Landing on July 16, 1863 and the Second Battle of Fort Wagner on July 18, 1863.

 

During the latter battle, the 54th and other Union regiments waged a frontal assault against Fort Wager, which resulted in the death of Shaw and 20 other members of the infantry while 125 were injured and another 102 reported missing (and presumed dead). And upon returning home, members of the 54th faced racial intolerance despite having served their country so valiantly.

Marita Rivero, the museum’s executive director, recalled how Harriet Tubman, a leading abolitionist who escaped slavery to become the most celebrated “conductor” of the Underground Railroad, met troops from the 54th when their steamship landed in South Carolina and served them breakfast.

Michael Creasey, NPS superintendent, said the Shaw Monument is widely regarded as not only one of Saint-Gauden’s masterpieces, but also as one of the most important monuments in the U.S.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who has announced plans to devise a new Master Plan for the Common, juxtaposed the State House, located directly behind the monument, where he began his political career as a state representative as the son of immigrants in 1997, with the infantryman represented in the monument marching down Beacon Street, whom he credits for paving his eventual path to City Hall.

Besides restoring this monument, Walsh announced plans for memorials to Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott on the Common and in Roxbury, a memorial to victims of the slave trade in Faneuil Hall and monuments honoring African-American culture in Dorchester and Roxbury.

Other elected officials on hand for the document signing included State Reps. Jay Livingstone, Byron Rushing and Chynah Tyler, as well as City Councilors Ed Flynn and Josh Zakim.

Meanwhile, Liz Vizza, executive director of the Friends, said the group plans to use the monument restoration to launch programming and a community dialogue and programming surrounding race relations in the city set to launch this fall.

“The project is an opportunity to engage the community through programming that will explore race, freedom and justice,” Vizza said, “and it couldn’t come at a more tumultuous time in our country’s history.”

Charlesgate Alliance Moves Forward with Plan to Reclaim Forgotten City Neighborhood

March 23, 2018

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The Charlesgate Alliance is energized and optimistic as the spring equinox approaches, according to a press release from the group established with the goal of piecing back together a forgotten Boston neighborhood that abuts the Back Bay and Fenway and runs adjacent to Kenmore Square and was lost more than half a century ago to construction of the Bowker Overpass.

And building on this growing momentum, it will hold another public meeting in Room 545 of a BU building at 545 Bay State Road on April 9 at 7 p.m., with representatives from Somerville’s Landing Studios on hand to present their latest designs. Light refreshments will also be served.

“We want as much public participation and feedback at that meeting as possible because both Landing Studio, and [the Alliance] are doing our best to develop these designs in a manner that will serve the public interest,” wrote Parker James, who co-founded the Alliance last in February of 2017 with neighbor Pam Beale. “Please attend and let us know what you think and want.”

The Alliance has also two events scheduled for April 28:  starting at 9 a.m., the group will sponsor the Charlesgate portion of the Muddy River cleanup and, later that day, its fundraising committee will host “Charlesgate in Bloom,” an upscale early evening gathering in the lobby area of the Bradley Mansion at 409 Commonwealth Ave., with themed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Committee members planning this event include Lisa Hazen, Maddy Segal, Tina Sykes, Rachel Bakish and George Lewis.  Tickets, which are limited and cost $75 each, can be purchased at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/charlesgate-in-bloom-tickets-43795821481.

Meanwhile, James extended the Alliance’s gratitude to Sen. Will Brownsberger; Reps. Jay Livingstone and Byron Rushing, and City Councilor Josh Zakim.

“The ongoing support and practical advice we receive from these individuals is valuable beyond description, and we will never forget their contributions to our effort,” James wrote. “We would also like to thank the following for their invaluable effort, advice, and support: Karen Mauney-Brodek of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, who is our greatest ally; Patrice Kish of [the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation,] who is a national leader in historic parks and an expert on Olmsted’s designs; Fran Gershwin of the MMOC, a tireless advocate for water quality improvements in the Muddy River basin; and others who are too numerous to name at the moment.”

While the Alliance has yet to sign a memorandum of understanding, James said both DCR and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) “have been very forthcoming and seem willing to partner and collaborate with us in [these] efforts.”

James wrote, “We have very high hopes that we can develop a formal partnership with them to ultimately realize a tenable, community-led solution for this long-neglected part of the city. Our gratitude goes out to all of our supporters, especially to our Leadership group, who contribute so much of themselves to this effort. Anyone can join our group at any level of interest, although the Leadership group is the best way to get involved actively.”

Leadership meetings are typically held at 7 p.m. on the first day of each month at the ENC’s Shattuck Visitor Center at 125 Fenway. No R.S.V.P. is necessary.

Officials React Positively to Sidewalk Settlement

February 21, 2018

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Neighborhood elected officials are responding positively to news of the legal settlement between the city and the Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA), which will allow the Public Works Department (PWD) to continue installing ADA-compliant curb-ramps at sidewalks throughout the Historic Beacon Hill District.

“I want to thank the mayor, Rep. Livingstone, the Beacon Hill Civic Association and all of the engaged residents who worked to reach this settlement,” City Councilor Josh Zakim wrote. “This would not have been possible without the mayor and his team being open and willing to reach this compromise with the neighborhood.”

The settlement and release agreement, dated Feb. 12, includes provisos that the Public Works Department “will present its ramp plan for the Historic Beacon Hill District at least annually, and at the BHCA’s request will investigate specific locations with the BHCA.” Furthermore, the PWD has agreed to use red, cast-iron tactile pads instead of plastic tactile pads if the BHCA contributes the difference in cost, and to “work with the BHCA to fashion and implement non-standard design solutions for ramps at uniquely historical spots, including Acorn Street, Louisburg Square and the cobblestone driveway on Mt. Vernon Street above Louisburg Square,” as well as at “various cobblestone driveways and alleys (not streets).”

 

Livingstone said, “My goal was always to improve accessibility while preserving the historic look of the neighborhood. I’m pleased we were able to accomplish those goals with this agreement.”

Nicole Caravella, Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s press secretary, stated, “The city is pleased to be able to move forward with efforts to construct and reconstruct pedestrian ramps in Beacon Hill that improve accessibility for residents, visitors and the public, and preserve the historic nature of the neighborhood.”

In 2014, the Beacon Hill Civic Association and 10 neighborhood residents filed a lawsuit against the city asserting that it bypassed key review and approval processes by installing 36 ramps in brick sidewalks on Beacon Street that summer.

Proposed ‘Digital Urban Panels’ Meeting with Strong Opposition

February 14, 2018

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A capacity crowd was on hand at the State Transportation Building on Thursday, Feb. 8, when the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s (MassDOT) Office of Outdoor Advertising reviewed an application to install multiple “digital urban panels” at four MBTA stations.

Boston-based Outfront Media, LLC, represented by John Mahoney, the company’s director of business development, filed 12 separate applications with the OOA, including two locations at the Aquarium station – one at Atlantic Avenue and State Street, the other at State Street and Old Atlantic Avenue; four locations at the Arlington station – three at Arlington and Boylston streets and a fourth at Berkeley and Boylston streets; four locations at Back Bay station, with two at Columbus Avenue and Clarendon Street and the remaining pair at 145 Dartmouth St.; and two at Park Street station – one at 128 Tremont St., the other at Tremont and Winter streets.

The so-called “digital urban panels” would display advertising, as well as real-time, scheduling information for commuters.

John Romano, OOA director, said the signage was considered “street furniture,” rather than electronic billboards, and is therefore subject to different restrictions.

Rachel Thurlow of Hancock Street said she would like to better understand State Secretary of Transportation and MassDOT CEO Stephanie Pollack’s rationale for classifying the signage as such and Federal Highway Administration’s reason for supporting this claim.

In a joint-letter to Romano, Sens. William Brownsberger and Joseph Boncore and Reps. Jay Livingstone, Aaron Michlewitz and Byron Rushing voiced their opposition towards the signage proposed within the Back Bay Historic District, as well as on Arlington and Tremont streets.

“The proposed ‘digital urban panels’ would not be in harmony with the visual character of the neighborhood,” they wrote. “The proposed panel placements are also immediately adjacent to the Boston Common and Public Garden, two of the most visited parks anywhere. We should not allow digital urban billboards to interfere with the beauty and enjoyment of these parks.”

Livingstone also said he hopes MassDOT would reconsider the decision to place the signage on the Boston Common and Public Garden and pledged he would continue “working with [his] colleagues to stop the effort.”

In a Feb. 5 letter to Romano, City Councilor Josh Zakim objected to installing billboard at the Arlington, Back Bay and Park Street stations.

“These ‘digital urban panels’ would clearly violate the Back Bay Architectural Commission Commercial Guidelines, which state: ‘Box signs are inappropriate… Illumination shall be static or steady-burning; animated or flashing effects are inappropriate, as are televisions, projected screens, LED and any future technology which incorporates movement,’” Zakim wrote. “The approval of these applications would set a negative precedent, allowing the widespread use of electronic advertising on MBTA stations to endanger the character of our historic neighborhoods. The proposed electronic advertisements also appear to violate MassDOT’s own regulations on outdoor advertising, as all are within [300] feet of parks.”

In a Feb. 8 letter to Romano, Leslie Singleton Adam, chair of the Friends of the Public Garden’s board of directors, strongly opposed the proposed signage at Arlington and Park Street stations.

“There are opportunities for indoor placement of panels that can achieve the MBTA’s advertising and informational goals without the visual and light pollution of the current proposal,” Adam wrote. “Given the revenue projections, the negative impact of these signs amounts to selling Boston’s public and historic landscapes for a pittance.”

In a Feb. 1 letter to Romano, Vicki Smith, president of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay, voice her objection to the proposed signage at the Arlington Street station.

“When Outfront Media first proposed the Urban Panels in 2015, there was a public outcry against them and their detrimental impact on the adjacent historic structures,” Smith wrote. “It is disheartening to see an even more intrusive proposal presented only three years later.”

Romano said the OOA would take the applications under advisement.