A vibrant meeting on the viability of Charles Street

October 15, 2010
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By Stephen Quigley

The economic viability of the Charles Street business community dominated discussion at the joint Charles Street Committee meeting at the Mt. Vernon Street Firehouse on Thursday night.

The meeting that was a collaboration between the Beacon Hill Business Association (BHBA) and the Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) drew more than a score of residents and business owners to share their vision of improving the conditions on Charles Street.

It was a wide ranging look into the ambiance of the Charles Street business community as well as the panache that the businesses bring to it and the neighborhood.

“This meeting is a beginning,” Sue Symonds, President of the BHBA said.

“This is a brainstorming session for making Charles Street the best it can be,” said John Corey of the BHCA.

“The lack of general lighting as well as the condition of parts of the brick sidewalks pose some dangerous conditions,” Donna Petro said.

The vision of a bike path showed some disparity in discussion of what exactly is needed.

Proponents and opponents expressed divergent views.

cSome were concerned that the bike path would take away the all too valuable scare parking on the street.

“I have a huge concern about bike paths that would interfere with parking, traffic flow and deliveries on Charles Street,” said Petro.

Eve Waterfall said that the bike path would be a benefit to the street.

“I support the bike path on Charles Street as I use my bicycle very frequently.”

Another alternative for parking that was discussed was trying to have shoppers and visitors to Charles Street to use the Boston Common Garage and have a reduced rate with a validated card.

There were lighter moments at the meeting that focused on perception.

One business owner pointed out that the scale of the double decker busses is all wrong as Charles Street is meant to be viewed at the sidewalk level and some of the larger buses have people looking into the apartment windows that are located above many of the store fronts.

Another owner noted that two large Do not Enter signs greet pedestrians coming from the Charles Street/MGH subway station.

One of the larger issues that was discussed was the recent trend of losing retail space in favor of office space and somehow restricting the use of these storefront spaces.

“You need something short of enforcing, but encouraging the use of these spaces,” said Steve Young. “If you have a vision of what it is, then locate the brokers to help make it,” he added.

Another issue was turning the area outside of the Meeting House Square into a more appealing space to gather in. Several residents thought that since the street would still be open to traffic and by creating a brick plaza it could be dangerous as it would give pedestrians the feeling that the area was more of a mall than an active street.

Another resident noted that the proposed change would take away the intimate neighborhood feel of the space and that more anonymous people could gather in the area.

Other issues that were discussed were the use of uniform plant beds and tree guards to artfully conceal outside air conditioners and sidewalk utility accesses as well as getting rid of the old 1950’s style street lampposts.

“Make Charles Street a city destination for families and strolling,” said Mark Comerford of Core de Vie.

The organizers had many ideas and suggestions to review for the next meeting.

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