Letter: Casey design is looking great—but western end needs work

August 2, 2013
By

I’d like to thank the members of the MassDOT Casey team and their consultants, as well as the other agencies and officials there, for the outstanding presentation at the July 11 public hearing concerning the 75 percent plan for the new Casey Arborway. (“Casey design nearing completion,” July 19.) It was very informative and, I might add, a very civil format.

But the highlight to me was the high level of expertise, patience and dedication exhibited by the many professionals in attendance. On a wide variety of topics including the design of the plazas, the location of paths and wayfairing signs, the specific tree species proposed, and many others, MassDOT reps were eager to explain the thinking behind the designs, to consider or reconsider nuances in those designs, and to hear suggestions from this abutting neighbor.

Project Manager Steve McLaughlin was most helpful in discussing the expected benefit of the relocation of the outer Arborway at South Street and the possibility of adding a “Don’t Block the Box” feature to enhance the goals of the relocation.

I applaud the evolution of the landscaping designs on the Shea Square end of the project and the central north and south plazas. Lead landscape architect George Batchelor’s description of the flowering crabapples and magnolias, with their succession of spring blooms we can expect within the larger red oaks, was terrific. The landscaping there offers a great mix of civic and recreational space, as well as an enhanced invitation into Franklin Park. The plaza near the new MBTA headhouse creates a strong connection with the Southwest Corridor Park, and the flow of pedestrian and cycling traffic works well to integrate form and function in this new northerly space. The trees lining both sides of southerly Washington Street between the Casey and Ukraine Way are a welcome addition, too.

But the design west of South Street does not rise to the level of the improvements planned for the rest. It does not, in my view, create an effective entrance to the area or a contiguous connection and invitation to the northerly portions of the Emerald Necklace. A proposed extended retaining wall between the outer Arborway and the new Casey Arborway adds more of what is worst about the legacy of the bridge—unsightly vertical hardscape where a natural wooded hillside once stood.

I truly believe that overall MassDOT and their partners are doing outstanding, thoughtful design work that will enhance the area for decades. But the westerly side is dragging down the effectiveness of the whole. This is a historic opportunity and a fully transformative solution is so close at hand. I urge the designers to make the western end worthy of the rest.

Clayton Harper

Jamaica Plain

Best of JP 2014