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Smart Growth

Greening America's Capitals - Boston, MA

Greening America's Capitals - Boston, MA City Hall Plaza, a 7-acre expanse in downtown Boston, is one of the city’s largest civic spaces. This expanse of open space is a rare asset to have in the middle of a city, but City Hall Plaza is often devoid of visitors, windswept, and barren. The city of Boston asked for help through EPA’s Greening America’s Capitals Program to improve the character of City Hall Plaza through sustainable planning and design approaches.

The two design scenarios presented in this report focus on creating right-sized civic spaces for the plaza that perform better environmentally. The first involves minimal regrading and uses trees to better define the main plaza space and the north plaza area. The second regrades much of the plaza to create a continuous slope from Congress Street to Cambridge Street and subdivides the plaza with allées of trees. Both scenarios achieve the following goals:

  • Help develop an implementable vision of a distinctive, environmentally friendly civic place.
  • Create well-defined edges and entrances.
  • Provide more bike access and parking.
  • Connect the plaza to existing streets.
  • Increase green elements such as trees and vegetation for better stormwater management.
  • Support energy efficiency and green building improvements in City Hall and nearby buildings.

Both scenarios create realistic greening options that build upon the critical work that a variety of stakeholders and public agencies are doing to improve aspects of the plaza and its environs. Through forging of partnerships with other public agencies, the city has the opportunity to begin a transformation of City Hall Plaza in concert with current, funded projects.

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