Sunday, April 3, 2011

Blog Post No. 2011-6: Archstone Avenir starts the ball rolling on Causeway Street...

...and we have hope for more to come

1 - Information on the now-departed elevated Green Line.

Photo 2 - Looking down Haverhill Street, back toward
downtown (with Custom House Tower in background).

Photo 3 - Looking up Haverhill Street toward TD Garden.
Photo 4 - From Valenti Way, looking across the corner at Canal Street.
Photo 5 - Looking up Canal Street (Avenir on the right).

Photo 6 - Looking from Canal Street down Valenti Way.
Photo 7 - Up close and along the Canal Street facade.
Photo 8 - Main residential entrance on Canal Street.
Photo 9 - Looking east down Causeway Street toward the North End.
Photo 10 - Looking across Causeway Street to the parking lot and TD Garden.
Photo 11 - CVS/Pharmacy to be first occupant of ground floor retail space.
Photo 12 - Looking down Haverhill Street with the next development parcel across the street.

Location: 89 Canal Street, Boston, MA.

Year of Urban Fabric Restoration: 2009.

The Story: So, here we are on Causeway Street, at the top of the Bulfinch Triangle, the area between the West End and the North End of Boston that once comprised the tidal Mill Pond and was filled in the early 19th century according to a plan developed by Charles Bulfinch. This new residential/retail building, developed by Trinity Financial (of Carruth and Washington-Beech fame, see Blog Post Nos. 2010-20 and 2009-10) and now owned and operated by Archstone-Smith, is the first of a series of mixed-use buildings that will fill in the gap just north of the Greenway and create a strong street wall on the south side of Causeway Street: Simpson Housing will be developing Parcel 1 (directly across Haverhill Street and appearing likely to start construction this spring/summer) and Trinity Financial (there they are again) has just recently been designated as the developer to move forward with a long-stalled project on Parcels 2A/2B (to the south of Parcel 1).

Once again this is a massive improvement from the old elevated Central Artery that was bulldozed through the heart of downtown in the 1950s and was finally submerged over the course of the last decade through the Central Artery/Third Tunnel (widely dubbed the Big Dig), not to mention the submerging of the old elevated portion of the Green Line that went on around the same time (more on that below). Avenir's retail has been relatively slow to fill up -- the CVS/Pharmacy shown in Photo 11 is the first of the ground floor retail spaces to be occupied almost 2 years after the building saw its first residential tenants -- but that has had more to do with the overall economy than the design of the building or its location. As the recovery takes hold in earnest and more residents arrive with the foregoing two buildings as well as the redevelopment of Lovejoy Wharf to the northeast, the ground floor space should eventually be occupied and active street frontages established. It will still take some time, but it will come.

Now, to return to the Green Line: This north-south corridor is essentially where the Green Line used to emerge from the downtown tunnel that starts west of Kenmore Square. After Haymarket Station, the trolley rose out of the ground heading north, turned sharply at Causeway Street, and then bent again around what is now the O'Neill Federal Buidling and crossed the Charles River near the Museum of Science. That same basic routing has been maintained, but it is now entirely underground until emerging just before Science Park Station. Avenir sits on top of the reconfigured North Station platforms of the Green and Orange lines that resulted. The result is a sun-strewn Causeway Street after nearly a century of living in the shadows of the elevated train structure and the Central Artery itself.

Of course, the other relatively recent makeover that occurred here was in the demolition of the old North Station/Boston Garden, which fronted directly on Causeway Street, and its replacement with what is now named the "TD Garden" (having been initially known as the Fleet Center), which sits behind a surface parking lot. Having been in the old Boston Garden myself a few times, I will attest that it was a cramped and highly idiosyncratic arena with many partial and fully blocked views because of its supporting columns. That said, if you had a seat with a good sight line, you had much more than that: you had a phenomenal, up-close-on-the-action view of the game. I mean, you were on top of the players and the action like no place else. The new building is decent, but the character of the old place was essentially irreplaceable. Now, if only that parking lot that sits between the new garden and Causeway Street could be filled in with an appropriate front door for the arena and the train station below...

Sketch of the Restored Urban Fabric:

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