Green Links for Community Change: A Loeb Fellowship Community Design Workshop

In keeping with the theme of the Loeb Fellowship 45th Reunion celebration, Designing for Change: Towards Equity and Resilience, Matt Kiefer (LF ‘96) and I, in partnership with Livable Streets, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy and Boston Green Links, convened a community design workshop to understand how one critical link along Columbia Road in the Olmsted’s original Emerald Necklace plan could be leveraged to build livability and community in a challenged neighborhood. At the workshop, we were joined by Charles McKinney (LF ’94) and GSD professor Alex Krieger, whose firm NBBJ won an earlier competition to redesign segments of the Greenway corridor.

On a Sunday in November, about 15 community stakeholders and others gathered at Uphams Corner to brainstorm the possibilities. While this was only the first real public outreach event, some important first ideas were uncovered:

  • Columbia Road is actually a highway, which many people use to get elsewhere and as an alternative way to get to I-93 or to the airport. Pedestrians and cyclists are challenged to walk or bike on it.
  • Planning fatigue has set in, and people have become tired and cynical because there has been so much planning in this area with little progress. So a small but implementable project like the future Sip and Spoke Bike Kitchen in a 1912 trolley line comfort station–a tangible project that creates a place for the community to meet–gives hope that progress can be made.
  • Historic and cultural landmarks, of which there are many in Uphams Corner, need to be celebrated to reestablish the identity of this place as a community hub of activity.
  • Columbia Road can be a true greenway, because there is enough space for bike lanes, street trees, and pedestrian improvements. A Columbia Road Greenway needs to solve multiple problems at once–not only enable buses, cars, bikes and pedestrians, but also support local businesses and job growth.
  • Some fast and inexpensive pilot projects should be launched to test alternative roadway reconfigurations and traffic calming strategies. 
  • An enforcement demonstration project should be launched by picking a relatively short portion of the corridor and aggressively enforcing existing rules against double parking, speeding, clean-up and policing. 

Livable Streets is building on the momentum with ongoing discussions with local community groups as well as the City of Boston and organizations like the Trust for Public Land, as part of their Climate Smart Cities work. Livable Streets has submitted the idea of an enforcement demonstration project as part of GoBoston 2030, and a Kickstarter campaign for the Sip and Spoke Bike Kitchen is in the works.

Photos courtesy of Amber Christoffersen, Livable Streets
Tagged , , , , |

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *