road gets a new look
Street undertakes multiple renovation projects
is a community resistant to change. It is evident everywhere, from
the old brick sidewalks to the maze of one-way roads that still
direct traffic out of the peaceful neighborhood.
But on the
outer artery of Beacon Hill that pumps traffic and passersby through
daily, change is happening - and fast. Cambridge Street, the gateway
to the city off the Longfellow Bridge, is undergoing a major facelift
to bring commerce and activity back to Beacon Hill's drab perimeter.
going to be amazing," Suzanne Besser, Beacon Hill Civic Association
executive director, says. "We're all wondering how it's going
to come together."
between Beacon Hill and the old West End, Cambridge Street is a
thoroughfare whose burgeoning projects offer an opportunity for
beautification and business. Its success hinges on the satisfaction
of residents, who are focused on maintaining the history of the
neighborhood during revitalization efforts.
is the site of Mass General Hospital - arguably the heart and soul
of Cambridge Street. MGH, established in the early 1800s, brings
16,000 employees to the neighborhood daily.
to being a source of activity, MGH is a source of funding for several
of the construction projects that will attempt to change the bleak
façade of Cambridge Street to a more inviting one.
Three of four
major projects planned along Cambridge Street are shared by the
hospital. The fourth is controlled by the state.
projects, beginning at the west end of Cambridge Street and heading
toward the Government Center area of Boston, are the Charles/MGH
MBTA station, the Charles Street Jail, the Charles River Plaza,
and the Saltonstall Building at 100 Cambridge Street.
projects are planned along the street, these four concurrent endeavors
will challenge the neighborhood and test years of planning. These
are the projects that are most visible to the public, and boast
the most promise of change.
it is wonderful," Babak Bina, Beacon Hill Civic Association
president, says. "The more the merrier has always been my philosophy."
That is the
general tone of Beacon Hill residents and business people.
The White Hen
Pantry, a small convenience store across from the Charles River
Plaza, has no fears of construction and more retail, manager Francis
station, one pit stop of several on the scenic trip down the Red
Line, is facing a renovation that aims to transform rusty, damaged,
deteriorating walls into a modern transportation hub.
Cambridge Street, the station requires renovations for more than
simple aesthetic purposes. The current design creates disruptive
noise. In addition, it is not handicap accessible.
By the end
of the year, the station should become ADA compliant, though a date
for renovations to begin has not yet been set. Expected completion
of the project is 2006.
the Charles/MGH station, enveloped in construction and in the shadow
of the hospital, stands the Charles Street Jail. The historic site,
once known as the Suffolk County Jail, is undergoing multiple phases
of construction started six months ago.
The plans are
to transform three wings of the building from a concrete-walled
jail to a combination hotel/hospital wing. A fourth wing will be
destroyed in construction.
Hospital will convert the wing of the jail closest to the hospital
into part of a new ambulatory unit called the Yawkee Center. Additionally,
an underground parking garage will be added to offer 725 parking
The two other
wings of the jail will be transformed into a hotel. The rooms that
once housed prisoners will be modified into meeting rooms and reception
halls. An additional site - that will connect to the wings - will
be built to offer rooms to guests. This project is also expected
to be complete in 2006.
the street, the Charles River Plaza is home to retail shops such
as Stop & Shop, CVS and Beacon Hill Photography. It additionally
hosts office space. Development planned for this stretch, 161-209
Cambridge St., will add to both.
will add approximately 430,000 square feet of new office and laboratory
space, to serve both the Government Center/Financial District and
MGH. It also will add 10,000 square feet of retail space. The project
plans detail the new retail as "designed with a depth that
will work for smaller neighborhood service retail tenants such as
florists, dry cleaners and perhaps a café." A grocery
store, Bread and Circus, will also be incorporated.
The new space
promises new jobs - about 1,100, according to the Boston Redevelopment
Authority - and is expected to be completed by 2004.
office space will also be found at the Saltonstall Building at 100
will rehabilitate the current Saltonstall Building, and add a new
four-story building - five-stories on the Bowdoin Street side -
called Bowdoin Place. Of the 75 new housing units, 19 will be affordable
spokesperson for Boston Redevelopment Authority Housing, says the
project fits in perfectly on Beacon Hill as Bowdoin Place will run
along the street in front of the Saltonstall Building, to mask its
a situation where it looks like the rest of Beacon Hill," he
said. "[The thought is] no, this isn't a huge office space."
Completion of the project is expected in the fall.
As these projects
overlap, neighborhood residents adapt. They look forward to the
incentives brought by finished construction - a return to a center
of activity and commerce that was lost with the old West End (LINK
to West End Narrative).
In the meantime,
traffic tie-ups are likely to be the biggest problems Beacon Hillers
will have to put up with.
projects] will increase traffic, but that is a price worth paying,"
Matt Kiefer, legal counsel for the Charles Street Jail project,
says. "It is far outweighed by the benefits."
be further grid locked by work on the street itself.
to truly create atmosphere and improved traffic flow, Cambridge
Street will be gaining luxuries such as wider sidewalks, improved
pedestrian walkways, signs and landscaping. Changes to a median
in front of Charles River Plaza will also be made to create easier
access to the garage.
resistance to change felt on the inside of historic Beacon Hill,
the changes to Cambridge Street are welcomed. If all goes according
to plan, they should ultimately bring improved transportation, more
jobs and more commerce to a street that's needed a facelift for