Bostonians walking around Downtown Crossing will find a way to relax among the foot traffic on Tuesday, thanks to a pop-up plaza.
The Boston Transportation Department is experimenting with widening sidewalks to create a plaza at the intersection of Franklin and Arch streets. From 8 to 11 a.m. on Tuesday, a temporary space will be sectioned off by fencing and planters. There, passersby can stop to drink coffee, sit at provided tables, and check out possible designs for a permanent plaza.
"We recognize that Downtown Crossing is an area of the city where most people get around on foot— and we want to create a better walking environment for them," said Mayor Marty Walsh in a statement. "This experiment is one of the many initiatives created by the city to ensure Boston is a welcoming destination for all pedestrians."
Franklin and Arch streets offer a particularly wide intersection thanks to 18th century-street design, according to the city. That area previously housed architect Charles Bulfinch's "Tontine Crescent," his design for a series of row houses built on a curve, with the wider area in the middle of the street serving as a small park.
Those buildings were constructed in the 1790s and demolished in the 1850s, but the shape of the street has remained, and the area continues to be congested.
"With the T station at Franklin and Washington reopening soon, we know foot traffic will pick up on this street," said Chris Osgood, City of Boston Chief of Streets, in a statement. "We're taking a tactical approach to improving this area for pedestrians. In the future we can imagine a whole network of parks and plazas from Shopper's Plaza to Post Office Square and on to the Greenway."
The Boston Transportation Department is working with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Public Works Department, the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District and Millennium Partners for the pilot project. Officials involved will look at the traffic capacity needs for both blocks, as well as the opportunity for pedestrian accommodations, like providing seating and shade.
During the pop-up on Tuesday, engineers will be monitoring the traffic, to see what needs to be addressed in future plaza designs.
"This is an opportunity to look at the urban design and engineering considerations that need to be factored into the final design," said Gina Fiandaca, Boston's Transportation Commissioner, in a statement. "We want to watch the changes in real time and be sure that we meet the needs of all road users in a permanent plaza."