The 8 Most Unique Open Space Locations in Boston
As Boston experiences its biggest building boom in decades, public spaces remain a high priority and often the focus of conversations about the city’s revitalization. Developers – continually on the hunt for areas to build out – are mindful of the importance of public use and access to open space in the Seaport District and other burgeoning urban neighborhoods.
In fact, over the past year or so, the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) has encouraged those submitting building proposals to include more public spaces, as recently noted by the Globe. As a result, developers are emphasizing these essential spaces within their design proposals and responding to BPDA requests while aiming to meet the increasing desire for attractive, accessible public spaces.
Recently, there have been several noteworthy public space developments in Boston courtesy of private owners, underscoring this new trend. These are quietly remaking the city’s landscape, providing residents and visitors with renewed ways to enjoy urban environments.
1. Lookout Rooftop and Bar at Envoy Hotel
Open to the public in June 2015, Envoy Hotel’s Lookout Rooftop and Bar in the Seaport District sits on the eighth story of the hotel, offering panoramic views of Boston’s scenic skyline and harbor. In the warmer seasons, the rooftop is filled with tables, couches and fire pits. During the winter and early spring, Envoy introduces its pop-up igloo bar – six heated igloos complete with seating and fleece blankets – where guests can order a drink with just the press of a button.
2. Harborwalk at Pier 4
Pier 4, a commercial and residential development project currently under construction in the Seaport, is creating new public space along Boston’s Harborwalk. Long known as a prime location where citygoers spend free time in the spring, summer and fall, the Harborwalk currently consists of a 38-mile path along the waterfront. This fall, however, Pier 4 will unveil a new public space along the Harborwalk, extending it to 47 miles, and featuring a series of six-foot-wide terraces, or “sea steps,” from which strollers can more closely view the waterfront. In addition, developer Tishman Speyer will be adding a range of native coastal plants and dunes reflecting beaches across New England to enrich the public‘s experience.
3. Shopper’s Plaza at Millennium Tower
This past summer, the developer of Millennium Tower in Downton Crossing, opened Shopper’s Plaza. Adjacent to Millennium Tower, this welcoming open airspace features elevated seating, otherwise known as “The Steps,” as well as benches where office workers and tourists gather. The nearby historic Tower Clock features a touch screen display that helps visitors and locals alike view and search hotels, shopping and dining destinations in the city. The public is able to enjoy musical performances at The Steps year-round. This comfortable space invites friends, family or coworkers to gather during seasonable weather.
4. Plaza at Bulfinch Crossing
This 2.9 million-square-foot, multi-phase development project is currently under construction at One Congress Street in Bulfinch Triangle. The new development will replace the existing Government Center Garage with six multi-use buildings, as well as a public plaza spanning 4.8 acres. Located at the center of the East Parcel, the public plaza—which includes a nine-story office building, a small retail building and a hotel/condo – connects the Greenway, Congress Street and Bulfinch Triangle, enabling pedestrians to enjoy a scenic walkway and shortcut through this high traffic area.
5. Plaza at Echelon Seaport
Echelon Seaport, one of the largest construction projects in Massachusetts, will consist of three mixed-use towers on a 1.3 million square foot, 3.5 acre parcel at B Street and Seaport Boulevard in the City’s Innovation District. It will also include a 19,000-square-foot, landscaped plaza accessible to the public, creating more green space in the Seaport and providing a new social setting for those who live and work nearby.
6. Great Hall at Winthrop Square Tower
Millennium Partners has recently begun razing the long-vacant parking garage in the heart of the Financial District to prepare the site for construction. Plans for this residential and commercial tower include a 12,000-square-foot public space named Great Hall, which will span the first three floors of the building. When complete, Great Hall will feature restaurant, retail and meeting space, creating a new connection between Winthrop Square and Federal Street.
7. Harbor Way promenade at 121 Seaport
Upon 121 Seaport’s completion in March of this year, its base will contain Harbor Way, a 70-foot-wide pedestrian retail promenade located between 101 and 121 Seaport Boulevard. This 20,000-square-foot promenade will feature an interactive museum celebrating the history of the Seaport’s development. The idea for the museum arose after remains of a 50-foot wooden ship, built sometime between the late 18th and mid-19th century, were noticed by an employee of Skanska, the company building the project at 121 Seaport. In light of the discovery, the museum will include an augmented-reality exhibit about the shipwrecked vessel, which caught fire and sank on its trip from Rockland, Maine to South Boston.
8. Common area at Cambridge Crossing
Currently under construction, Cambridge Crossing will include a 45-acre, 4.5-million-square-foot mixed-use development located at the intersection of Cambridge, Somerville and Boston. Developer DivcoWest included 11 acres of public green space in its plans for the project, which will be highlighted by a central common area. It will also feature footpaths and protected bike lanes, all enabling easy accessibility between neighborhoods for pedestrians living and working in the area.