Sasaki, in partnership with Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the City of Boston, is embarking on a renovation of the historic Boston City Hall Plaza. The seven-acre plaza is one of the City’s largest civic spaces and for the last 50 years it has hosted events ranging from sports celebrations and political rallies to seasonal cultural festivals. Much has changed about the plaza’s urban context, standards of public safety and security, and municipal operations since its design in the 1960s. Currently, the Plaza lacks 21st century infrastructure to support engaged, civic life: its massive open space and stepped elevation change makes for an unwelcoming and inaccessible environment for everyday activity.
In October 2017, Mayor Walsh released the Boston City Hall and Plaza Master Planning Study: Rethink City Hall, which was led by Utile and Reed Hilderbrand. The study resulted in a 30-year master plan to address required repairs and to transform the 50-year-old City Hall and Plaza into an innovative, healthy, and efficient civic facility to better serve current and future generations of Bostonians and visitors, alike.
As part of the master planning process, Mayor Walsh engaged the community, beginning in early 2015, across social media and through dozens of public meetings to help crowdsource ideas on how to reimagine the plaza. As the project has proceeded it has engaged, and will continue to engage, many stakeholders and abutters; importantly, these include the MBTA and the U.S. General Services Administration, which concurrently has been masterplanning their own modern-era building and site.
The Phase 1 City Hall Plaza project arising from the Master Plan has begun. Led by Sasaki, its main goal is to make the plaza more accessible for all while delivering updated programming capabilities adding infrastructure and making it more sustainable. The new design aims to connect Congress and Cambridge Streets with an accessible sloped promenade activated by 21st century civic amenities like shady seating and gathering areas, a destination play space, public art space, and an iconic water feature. The main plaza will accommodate events of up to 20,000 people in a wide variety of potential configurations.
Additional project features include:
- Opening the North building entry
- Assessibility improvements to the Plaza entry
- Enhanced speakers corner
- Stormwater improvements working with Boston Water and Sewer Commission
- Flexible platform for various sized performances
“Boston City Hall Plaza has long been Boston’s place to gather, celebrate and make residents’ voices heard,” said Isabel Zempel, Sasaki landscape principal. “This historic Plaza recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and these updates will bring the Plaza into the modern century with improved infrastructure, sustainability, and public spaces. The Plaza’s renovation will honor its original intentions and history, while making it a more accessible place for all.”
The Boston City Hall Plaza Renovation project is managed through the City’s Operations Cabinet by the Public Facilities Department in partnership with the Property Management Department and is assisted by owners project manager Skanska USA.
For additional information about the City Hall Plaza Renovation project, visit boston.gov/city-hall-plaza. For more background on the Rethink City Hall Master Planning Study completed in 2017, visit www.rethinkcityhall.org.