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Developer proposes turning Kenmore Square into a pedestrian plaza - with a sort of large rotary with traffic lights

Map of proposed new Kenmore Square

Developer Robert Korff has filed detailed plans for a 27-story hotel in Kenmore Square that would feature a new plaza in the middle of what is now one of the city's busiest intersections - with his hotel and a half-acre of public outdoor space in the middle.

Korff says his plans - which include him spending roughly $15 million to realign the square's current roads - would turn a car-dominated expanse of asphalt into a place where people could stroll and bike under shade trees. It would also mean a nice new entrance for the 389-room hotel right on the plaza.

The resulting Project serves as a unique opportunity to redefine the heart of Kenmore Square. It will activate a critical flashpoint for the city’s cultural life and will form a more distinctive gateway to the Back Bay and downtown from Greater Boston’s western reaches. By reorganizing the street system, pedestrian and bicyclist safety will be improved without worsening traffic congestion. The new public plaza will provide a new public gathering space in Kenmore Square and accommodate the crowds that pass through the square on Red Sox game days.

People walking on a plaza instead of scurrying across the intersection trying to beat the light:

Proposed plaza

If the BPDA and the Zoning Board of Appeal approve the plans, Korff would hire contractors to turn the current intersection at the heart of the square into more of a large rotary. Instead of making one left turn to get onto Beacon Street as at present, motorists would have to go just beyond his new plaza, turn left, then turn right. Motorists heading inbound on Comm. Ave., would no longer have a straight shot through the square, but would instead have to turn right before the plaza, then left to continue towards the Back Bay.

Despite some recent streetscape improvements, Kenmore Square is still an unwelcoming place for people walking. Public space is tight - there's no real "square" in the square - and pedestrians must wait a long time to cross some very wide streets. Due to the complicated main intersection, a full signal cycle takes almost two minutes and then rushes pedestrians across seven lanes of fast-moving traffic. Cyclists, too, face dangerous challenges as they try to negotiate this key commuter route.

As has been learned in other cities, simplifying the intersection by cutting redundant roadway can vastly improve the pedestrian experience without worsening traffic congestion. Such changes can also make new public spaces for people walking and biking.

In Kenmore Square, these changes are made possible by the redevelopment of the current "flatiron" site owned by the Proponent. Moving this building footprint sets the stage for a simpler and slimmer street configuration, and an urban design that responds to community concerns about the impacts of growth.

The current site houses a Citizens Bank branch, which would be torn down. The bank would be offered space in the new building.

In addition to this proposal, Kenmore Square could be getting a new look with Related Beal's proposal to re-do the block topped by the Citgo Sign. BU is planning a 19-story building a couple blocks west on Comm. Ave.

Proposed view from Kenmore Square:

Proposed view from the square

Proposed view from Comm. Ave.

Proposed view from the square

Proposed setting sun over the new Kenmore Square:

Proposed setting sun

Kenmore hotel draft impact report (52M PDF).

Neighborhoods: 
Ad:

Comments

Anyone else have the urge to make a giant sundial out of it?

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Voting closed 13

Looks like a high rise version of the linderman mental health building with a mix of Boston city hall dabbled in brown paint.

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Voting closed 2

Awesome! Sounds and looks like this guy's got money to burn! Looks cool. Let's add some George Jetson-like transportation to Boston to ease up the motor vehicle congestion.

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Voting closed 22

I have experienced a "sort of rotary with traffic lights," and it is a disaster. Intersections should be designed by traffic engineers, not by property developers, and not by politicians, as was the one I know of.

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Voting closed 60

They had a video showing the design a few months ago and it makes a lot of sense.

The current Kenmore SUCKS. I often walk further then needed just to cross under the intersection via the T. Keeping the square the same and expecting things to improve is foolish.

This design would make it easier to cross the street, not bad to drive through the square, and provides nicer public spaces. The city should fast track the approval.

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Voting closed 65

A bottleneck will occur behind the tower (west facade), which is also the B.O.H. for the development. Its the standard New Urbanism "Neo-Traditional Urbanism" pitch. Just cram cars where nobody will see them. Until of course the backup pushes into the square.

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Voting closed 11

Because kenmore sees very little of it. I assume lights will hold traffic back up onto beacon, brookline, and comm ave before letting traffic back up into the actual square.

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Voting closed 4

Rush Hour X 3. This project is a fantasy

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Voting closed 1

reminds me of the circle of death which surrounds the Crowne Plaza that straddles the turnpike in Newton.

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Voting closed 15

Here's the video explaining the proposed redesign of the travel lanes:
https://vimeo.com/314058356

Stantec, an international planning and engineering firm, was on the team.

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Voting closed 36

Thank you for sharing the video. I do worry that that "jog" will get congested with several lanes of traffic backing up and drivers trying to cross each other's path. I think there is a risk of that whole area getting hopelessly congested if the lights aren't timed correctly...

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Voting closed 13

As opposed to the current state of Kenmore which is … a mess.

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Voting closed 10

Yeah, Kenmore needs work. However I'm not convinced that this jog will improve traffic. It still has Comm Ave and Beacon St traffic crossing, but with much less room to back up. So it's just shifting the problem (which can't really be fixed due to geography with anything less than an over/under solution, and ohgodnotantherbigdigplease!) and adding potential back-up points.

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Voting closed 8

Safety for pedestrians can be fixed.

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Voting closed 11

Just walk through the T station if you're so terrified of cars. Honestly there's nothing wrong with the square as-is. When it's congested (say like day of a sox game) the cars aren't moving fast enough to pose a threat to anyone.

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Voting closed 9

Its a bunch of busy streets through a very busy area ,there is no fix to make it palatable to every one, so just roll with it. At least the old White Fuel display didnt spew oil all over the place.

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Voting closed 1

His bad ideas come and go. He pitched Broadway intersection piazzas in Medford/Somerville. No really

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Voting closed 11

I thought somebody spiked my coffee during his Broadway convo. He wanted to replace the asphalt intersections with high priced stone and obelisks in the hope that the features would slow down traffic. In reality cars would rip up any feature in mere days. The intersection would be paved over with asphalt after mounting complaints and the community would be stuck with a big bill. I'm shocked Speck is pitching ANOTHER traffic plan for Greater Boston

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Voting closed 0

is too runny.

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Voting closed 34

... left the cake out in the rain.

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Voting closed 30

have that recipe again...

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don't think that I can take it

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Voting closed 7

That building looks like it's melting. It's awful. But that's just my opinion.

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Voting closed 15

A version of a ZPM, maybe?

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Voting closed 5

Can we get this guy to build a gondola system from his building to the Pru?

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Voting closed 24

I mean, maybe anything would be better than the current mess? But at the risk of sounding like one of those "No, never; all change is bad" people, this seems like one of those ideas that looks good (?) on paper but in reality would be an absolute nightmare for anyone needing to *pass through* that intersection/neighborhood/plaza rather than just wander around *within* it. But, sure, if you're ON FOOT in this little oasis, it would undoubtedly be delightful.

P.S. Apparently Robert Korff claims Newton as his adopted hometown but he in fact grew up in the lovely suburban seaside town of Marblehead, and maybe doesn't understand how actual cities work? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Voting closed 9

Yes, I'm sure the developer's secret Marblehead roots are to blame for this plan you don't like.

FYI, A large number of people "passing through" Kenmore square are probably already ON FOOT, so if it's really gonna be delightful, I say do it.

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Voting closed 43

Pedestrians and their safety are the number one priority. This shouldn't even have to be said. I can remember many instances of a driver speeding through a red light and almost hitting me or someone else in a crosswalk here. This area has so many pedestrians so it should be designed with them in mind even more than normal.

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Voting closed 46

If you are worried about people passing through, try getting the city to rigorously ticket and tow all the uber/cabs/valet/general entitled feeling people who double park in Kenmore every day. That takes away a travel lane. Also, there are several highways (90, Storrow, Memorial) nearby for people trying to get through quickly. Putting pedestrians at the bottom as Boston/Mass have for decades isn't working. It just leads people to use their cars more, adding traffic (and of course pedestrian deaths).

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Voting closed 16

It would be nice if one inbound lane on Comm Ave. past the project was retained as a bus-only lane for Route 57 and the BU Shuttles. Let general traffic take the detour around the building, allow buses to pass in front on a more direct path.

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Voting closed 22

I'm looking at the proposal (as best I can because I'm not doing more than skimming through a 500-page document) and I can't figure out how this would affect the middle of Kenmore Square, specifically the busway.

Also, I noticed this puzzling statement about current bus service from Kenmore:

MBTA Bus Routes 8, 9, 19, 57, 57A, 60, and 65 can be accessed at the Kenmore Station busway in Kenmore Square and provide one-seat service to Harvard Square, Watertown Square, and Chestnut Hill among other desired locations around the region.

I've been using buses out of Kenmore for decades, and I don't know of any "one-seat service" from Kenmore to Harvard Square, unless they're counting hiking up to Mass. Ave to catch the 1. (Oh, wait - they appear to be counting the MASCO M2 shuttle, which goes from the Longwood Medical Area to Harvard Square, with a stop in Kenmore Square. And which costs $4 per ride - tickets purchased in advance, no cash fares accepted - unless you have a Harvard ID.)

Also, as far as I can tell, they are only including the 9 route, which normally runs between Copley and City Point, because one single run in the morning detours to serve Boston Latin School and terminates at Kenmore. There is no service out of Kenmore on the 9; the corresponding run at the end of the school day starts at Boston Latin and goes to City Point.

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Voting closed 17

There are two categories of people who think this might work:

1)Those who have never been to Kenmore Square and know nothing about the traffic flow
2)Those who don't give a damn if it works even a little bit.

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Voting closed 21

I've been going through Kenmore Sq almost daily for the past 20 years. The current configuration doesn't work for pedestrians. It shouldn't take two light cycles and hoping cars stop just to cross any street.

The proposed design is an improvement. If drivers need to wait for an extra light, so be it. Kenmore square has changed a lot in the past 30 years and the traffic flow should as well.

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Voting closed 27

If you are a pedestrian on the south side of Comm Ave going east, this actually adds a new crossing.

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Voting closed 9

I like architecture that is inspired by nature.

IMAGE(https://www.birdsoutsidemywindow.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/moth_bagworms_in_cedar_1860096_rsz_bugwood.jpg)

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Voting closed 8

Basalt formation all the way...

https://www.google.com/search?q=basalt+formation&client=firefox-b-1-e&so...

...and of course it's by Jeanne Gang

http://studiogang.com/project/11-hoyt
http://studiogang.com/project/one-delisle

Also, it might be just me but the "drips" look a lot deeper and more pronounced in the ground level renderings than the aerial. And not in a good way.

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Voting closed 7

IMAGE(http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2523/4037064974_dd25be1723_o.jpg)

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Voting closed 4

I don't get it?

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Voting closed 2

I was thinking of the dominant basalt geology in another place: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boring_Lava_Field

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Voting closed 3

I love the roadway reconfiguration/plaza concept. I'm in favor of a tower at that location. I really hate the design of this particular tower though.

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Voting closed 15

This arrangement is somewhat similar to Riverway/Boylston/Park Drive. Maybe a little Kneeland/Atlantic/South Station thrown in, too.

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Voting closed 3

I'm fine with the traffic realignment (assuming they get the traffic light cycle correct so it's not a complete nightmare for both pedestrians and drivers). But that building is both ugly (it looks like a melted candle) and way too tall--it's ridiculously outsized in the last image. I assume Korff is doing the "ask for too much" tactic, then will "compromise" by lopping off 7 or so floors to get what he wanted in the first place.

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Voting closed 5

Kenmore Square, but the current one is so intimidated by having to cross a street?

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Voting closed 8

Until I finish my grad program there?!?!
Keep all the life headaches to a minimum, pretty please!

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Voting closed 4

Wow developers will pitch anything to build yet another building of "luxury" condos or a "boutique" hotel

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Voting closed 13

Not quite up there with Levanthal Park, but certainly in the same vein.

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Voting closed 4

WHAT DOES IT WANT FROM ME?!?

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Voting closed 8

...but an actual rack full of ugly sticks.

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Voting closed 7

Where's the transit improvement?

If they throw in a bus tunnel to bypass the whole mess, I'd be more likely to support it.

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Voting closed 2

It's called the B Line.

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Voting closed 8

How does that help people who aren't taking the B line?

It's possible to have a bus tunnel and a train tunnel in the same square. See Harvard and South Station.

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Voting closed 11

How many walk lights will a pedestrian walking along the south side of Comm Ave have to wait for? It looks like 4, or 2 if they go out of their way around the south corner of the triangle.

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Voting closed 4

A new Borg...rectangle?

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Voting closed 5

So far nobody's mentioned that this proposal conveniently allows the footprint of the building to take over what's currently the public sidewalk.

How would the developer feel if the streets were reconfigured like this, but the public sidewalks and roads remained public land? More space for people, but where's the money to be made in it?

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Voting closed 3

Think of the worst times for traffic in Kenmore square now (post-game) and then imagine all of those cars attempting to stream inbound through with fewer lanes and, instead of shooting right through on busy Commonwealth Avenue, now you'll need to take a right turn, then a left turn to get through the square.

In the other direction instead of the present slight diagonal turn from Commonwealth to Beacon Street , this new configuration calls for a left, then a right to continue on Beacon Street. Why ? To accommodate the developers takeover of the square.

Since when are the developers doing all of the 'planning' ? Is there anybody in charge at City Hall ? Walsh has got to go.

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Voting closed 1