Meeting House Square Proposal Meets with Less Than Enthusiastic Response

October 4, 2011
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Meeting House Square plans met with a less than enthusiastic response from the standing-room crowd at Hill House last Tuesday during the first public meeting to vet the proposal.

The Joint Charles Street Committee, co-chaired by Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) board member John Corey and Beacon Hill Business Association (BHBA) President Susan Symonds, unveiled plans to construct a public meeting place at Mt. Vernon and Charles streets, across from the historic Meeting House.

An artist’s rendering of the proposed Meeting House Square. (Photos courtesy of Rosales + Partners). At left: A pilot “tree-guard” that the Joint Charles Street Committee helped install at 143 Charles St. Through a public-private partnership, the City of Boston performed the brick work, Charles Street Liquors paid for the tree guard, and Rouvalis Flowers did the planting. (Courtesy of John Corey)

The new space, which would be created through the elimination of three commercial parking spaces on Charles Street, would replace the existing paved surface with brick pavers, widen the south sidewalk and add planters in axis with the Meeting House.

The proposal also calls for the formation of a Friends group to maintain the area.

The project has a $300,000 price tag and would be funded by the city as a capital expenditure over the next few years, according to the Joint Committee.

Neighbors and abutters expressed concern that the new space would create more problems, including increased traffic, trash and panhandlers.

“I just feel completely ignored and powerless,” a Mt. Vernon Street resident said. “There’s just too much happening on this one street.”

One direct abutter applauded the Joint Committee latest efforts to install tree-pits on Charles Street, but added he didn’t “want to give up parking spaces and expand sidewalks.”

In contrast, longtime Hill resident James McNeely voiced his support for the project.

“I think it’s beautiful, and I’d rather see less cars on Beacon Hill,” McNeely said.

BHBA President Steve Young said the Civic Association board had yet to consider the Meeting House Square proposal and reminded neighbors that the project was a work in progress.

“This is not a done deal. You’re not swimming upstream,” Young said.  “This is an idea that is at the point where it deserves public input. It’s in the development stages.”

City Councilor Mike Ross recommended that the Joint Committee consider input from the meeting and adapt their plan accordingly.

“I think a lot of constructive comments were made here tonight to allow us to consider, reflect and make changes,” Ross said. “I would ask [Joint Committee members] to take the changes suggested here into account and come back with a new proposal.”

Meanwhile, Corey told the Times that he would report comments from the meeting back to other Joint Committee members to see if they want to modify the project.

“It’s always interesting to hear different points of view, and any great project has its fair share of back and forth,” Corey wrote.

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