Special to the Times
As the newly elected representative for Beacon Hill, Councilor Sharon Durkan knew that ensuring the upkeep of brick sidewalks was a top priority.
Her victorious Special Election campaign in July emphasized her focus on quality-of-life issues — and her clean sweep of all precincts made it clear she had a mandate to address the nuts-and-bolts problems facing each of District 8’s neighborhoods.
For Beacon Hill, the sidewalks flanking Charles Street stood out to Councilor Durkan as a sensible and natural area to begin her efforts. Tripping hazards caused by loose bricks and missing patches had been a persistent problem in the area — prompting numerous 3-1-1 requests and consistent advocacy from the neighborhood’s civic organizations. The concerns were for both the immediate risk of injury, and the cumulative impacts these hazards could have on such an important space. The idyllic shops, amenities, and restaurants of the street are go-to-spots for locals, and together these businesses form an iconic and noteworthy destination for Boston’s visitors. As Councilor Durkan puts it, “Charles Street is the main street for the neighborhood, and truly is the heart of Beacon Hill”.
At the beginning of October, Councilor Durkan directed her office to do a full inventory of the priority sidewalk repairs needed along Charles Street, with a special focus on optimizing pedestrian safety. The completed “Charles Street Sidewalk Brick Audit” detailed 23 priority improvements at both residential and commercial addresses along the entire length of the street, from Cambridge to Beacon. The completed report was then delivered to the city’s Public Works Department, and Councilor Durkan succeeded in making them a shared priority. One month later, all but one of the 23 identified problems have been resolved (the outstanding issue is not on city property). Councilor Durkan attributes her success to taking a collaborative approach with residents and city administrators, and made a point to convey her “special thanks to the City of Boston team that got this done: Normal Parks, Mike Brohel, and Julia Campbell!”
These improvements are visible throughout Charles street, and have drawn positive notice. Beacon Hill Civic Association Chair Meghan Awe shared that advocating for sidewalk improvements had been a labor of love for her friends in the Beacon Hill Business Association and Beacon Hill Civic Association, and that she is “so thrilled that Councilor Durkan took ownership of this, and worked so swiftly to get real positive results! We’re excited for the many years of partnership ahead.”
Councilor Durkan plans to continue to build off of this success throughout District 8.
“I think this audit model can work across issues in neighborhoods, and I’m excited to deploy it for other issues that have come to us, like crosswalk safety and street maintenance,” said Councilor Durkan.