The Massachusetts Department of Transportation announced on Thursday that the green light has been given to proceed with the next step to develop state owned land situated beneath a section of the I-93 overpass that cuts through the South End. Residents can expect new greenery, streetscape accessibility and improvements along Fort Point Channel.
MassDOT’s formal Notice to Proceed is the second phase of the “Infra-Space 1 Project,” an endeavor to activate and build-out the underutilized land beneath the overpass by equipping it with green space, lighting upgrades and appealing amenities for Bostonians and nonnatives alike.
Phase one of the Infra-Space undertaking was the building and opening of two surface parking lots, comprised of 325 spaces and fully staffed 24 hours a day, for vehicles and conventional lighting to make those who pass through the area during times when security may appear more sparse, an obvious example being at night.
The latest construction is slated to include a pedestrian walkway that links the South End to South Boston, a pedestrian-focused plaza to support various arts & culture installations and events, and, along Fort Point Channel, new landscaping and a designated community zone for the likes of dog walking, recreation and sports as well as a waterfront event venue.
“What started as an idea to address a long-standing nuisance has become a creative exercise in re-thinking how we use certain spaces so they add value to a community and can bridge neighborhoods together that were previously separated by highway infrastructure,” said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack in a statement. “I’m excited at the success the Infra-Space Program has had, and I look forward to finding more opportunities to repurpose underutilized spaces that add appeal to what was previously forgotten.”
If all goes according to plan, building and construction is expected to be completed by July 2016. At that time, the revamped space will cover close to eight acres.
Not only should the redevelopment of this underpass land tickle the fancy of signed and prospective tenants of the neighboring Ink Block residential complex, or those who attend SOWA on Sundays, but this is great news for all abutters and park-goers in Greater Boston.
The original artworks, event programming and sheer reverberation of the wants and needs of Boston’s burgeoning population seen at the likes of The Lawn on D and Rose Kennedy Greenway have together bolstered Boston’s prowess as a playable city.
Playability is crucial for the livability of a city. Sure it’s important to be tech savvy and have smooth public transportation, but playability provides for residents’ general happiness where as those two aforementioned examples are more of a necessity. Playability is something for the city, by the city (or in this case, the state).
While the Infra-Space square footage is substantially more constrained than The Lawn on D or the Greenway, this prompts a more imaginative and visionary utilization of it. And given Greater Boston’s collective design ingenuity, I have no doubt this space, perhaps a fleeting oversight by some who write it off because of its locale, can be yet another example of how Boston is transforming its public spaces for the better.