Hyde Sq. to stay a rotary

John Ruch

Monument, Hyde/Jackson up for redesign

Hyde Square will remain a rotary—though a much improved one—after the Centre/South Action Plan advisory group favored that design over more radical changes at a March 23 meeting at Jackon Square’s Julia Martin House.

The advisory group also narrowed down the options for a possibly dramatic redesign of Monument Square, and talked about wider sidewalks, less parking and maybe a bike lane on Centre Street in Jackson and Hyde Squares.

Bike lanes already have become a controversial part of the Centre/South Action Plan redesign of Centre and South streets through Jamaica Plain. [See related article.] Vineet Gupta, director of policy and planning at the Boston Transportation Department (BTD), announced that bike lanes and other “bike accommodations” will be on the agenda for the advisory group’s meeting later this month. [See JP Agenda.]

Bike-related improvements for the entire corridor might even become the fourth and final target of specific design options, according to Ralph DeNisco of McMahon and Associations, the project’s design consultant.

The Centre/South Action Plan is a joint effort of the Boston Redevelopment Authority and BTD. It is creating design guidelines for all of Centre and South streets between Jackson Square and Forest Hills, and more specific redesigns of four key areas on that strip. While some of the new ideas could be implemented quickly, others will wait until some unknown future when money becomes available.

Hyde Square

While the advisory group sought some “radical” redesign options for the specific study areas, it ended up preferring the more conservative option for Hyde Square.

That means keeping the Centre/Perkins/Day streets intersection as a rotary, but more of a true rotary with narrower lanes and more green space. That would mean shorter pedestrian crossings and much wider sidewalks—up to 30 feet wide on the Sorella’s Restaurant side of the intersection.

The project consultants appeared to prefer the more “radical” second option, which would have turned Centre and Perkins into a probably signalized T intersection. That design included a large sidewalk bumpout that might have featured public art or a farmer’s market. DeNisco called it a “unique, iconic space.”

But, advisory group member Lauren Ockene noted, a rotary is a “consistent measure of traffic calming.”

“It’s very functional” for car drivers, said group member David Worrell.

“It keeps with the character that is there,” said group member Michael Halle.

Group member Carlos Icaza raised the issue of the small green space in the center of the rotary, which is technically parkland. Questioned by Icaza, Gupta guaranteed that the parkland designation will be maintained on the central open space.

Group member Juan Gonzalez noted that the wider sidewalks could mean a loss of parking for local businesses. Gupta said there will be one-on-one meetings with all abutters to check on such things. Damaris Pimentel of Ultra Beauty Salon, which is right in the square, is a member of the advisory group, but did not attend that meeting.

Halle and Ockene noted that less parking is not automatically bad for businesses.

“Does Sorella’s benefit [more] from two cars parked in front of it or [from] a sidewalk café?” Halle asked.

Monument Sq.

All four proposed redesigns for Monument Square, where South Street branches off Centre in central Jamaica Plain, would keep the Civil War-era Soldier’s Monument intact. But there also would be significant changes.

One option enlarges the triangle of land where the Monument sits, making it more inviting. Another option turns the intersection into a rotary with the Monument in the middle. Two other options create a large new parkland by erasing a section of Centre and attaching the Monument triangle to one side of the street—either in front of Atreva health care or in front of First Church in Jamaica Plain Unitarian Universalist.

All of the options have some challenges and mysteries involved. At this point, it is not clear where some MBTA bus stops in the square might go. The large parkland designs would require service drives to access some houses and garages. And some members of the group and the audience debated whether the square is already used as a sort of rotary, even though it officially is not one.

“That’s absurd!” called out group member John Iappini, a resident of nearby Pondside, when he saw the option for attaching the Monument triangle to the church property. He expressed concern about slower traffic being diverted onto neighborhood streets.

Still, the group was able to agree on two options for further study: that large parkland attached to the church property option, and the option that enlarges the existing triangle.

The Hyde/Jackson section of the redesign is focused on the Centre Street area from the Stop & Shop supermarket to Mozart Park. The main concerns are widening the sidewalks—especially in the tight section next to the Bromley-Heath Housing Development—and improving the traffic situation around the parking and adjacent mall.

Some possibilities include sidewalk café seating for the area’s well-known restaurants; turning the unusual Wyman Place private-drive area into a planned parking lot; and making a “travelway shift” on Centre—a jog in the lanes of the road intended to slow down traffic. Planners are also proposing slightly raised crosswalks at all side streets where they meet Centre.

Early ideas all involve removing some of the estimated 85 on-street parking spaces. One option removes all parking on one side of the street to create a bike lane. Another option widens sidewalks and adds large bump-outs at intersections. Yet another option is a modified sidewalk-widening that keeps more on-street parking. Depending on the option, more than half of the current on-street parking could go.

Worrell, who represents Bromley-Heath on the advisory group, suggested focusing on benefits for the high volume of pedestrian use.

Noting the area’s restaurants are tourist destinations, Iappini said that parking loss “would be bad for business.”

But Halle noted that the area is right next to a T station and a huge parking lot at Stop & Shop that he described as “underused.” That lot is currently private and used only for Stop & Shop and the Martha Eliot Health Center. He said if on-street parking can’t be cut here in favor of bikes or pedestrians, “it can’t be done anywhere.”

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