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Experimental Plaza to "Pop Up" in Downtown Crossing

Morning of coffee on temporarily expanded sidewalk will allow engineers and planners to study design of future plaza on Franklin St.

BOSTON - Monday, August 29, 2016 - The Boston Transportation Department (BTD) is experimenting with widening sidewalks to create a plaza at the intersection of Franklin Street and Arch Street in Downtown Crossing. Planters and fencing will create a temporary plaza space that will be filled with tables and chairs from 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM on Tuesday, August 30. Visitors can stop in to drink coffee while looking at possible designs for the space while engineers monitor traffic and anticipate issues that need to be addressed in future designs.

BTD is working with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Public Works Department, the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District and Millennium Partners to implement the pilot project and upcoming phases. The architecture firm Höweler + Yoon has been commissioned by Millennium Partners to develop the designs for the next phase of the experiment.

"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 Martin J. Walsh. "This experiment is one of the many initiatives created by the City to ensure Boston is a welcoming destination for all pedestrians."

The intersection of Franklin Street and Arch Street is particularly wide because it was once the location of architect Charles Bulfinch's Tontine Crescent. In the 1790s, a series of row houses was built on a curve, and the wider area in the middle of the street was a small park with trees. Though the buildings were demolished in the 1850s, the shape of the street remains.

"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. "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."

Franklin Street currently accommodates two lanes of westbound travel and a right turn lane at Arch between Devonshire and Hawley Streets as well as handicap and commercial parking. The pilot project will look at the traffic capacity needs for both blocks and the opportunity spaces to create better pedestrian accommodations as well as seating and shade.

"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. "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."

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