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Developer proposes hotel skyscraper for Kenmore Square - and to redo the square's layout

Kenmore Square Square

The Globe reports that developer Robert Korff has proposed a 300-foot-tall hotel replacement for the Citizens Bank in Kenmore Square - and to build a new road between Commonwealth Avenue and Beacon Street.

The proposal would be a replacement for an earlier plan to build two hotels in the square, neither anywhere near as tall as the current plan, but without any major changes to the square itself.

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It'd be nicer if it was more housing instead of hotel rooms, but whatever.

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Voting closed 8

It looks ridiculous. How about a three story hotel so it doesn't cast a massive shadow on currently sunny buildings.

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Voting closed 7

Three stories is too high. Don't want to cast shadows on pedestrians before 7am, three days out of the year in the middle of winter.

Make the new building just one story, and put something useful in there, like a CVS. Or a bank.

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Voting closed 56

We should build a one story house with a yard for a teacher or a fire fighter, to show people what our values are in this city.

Two car garage should be fine I think.

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Voting closed 38

One car garage and a Bluebikes station would be better.

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No -- Anything which casts a shadow should be banned --we need to preserve the Kenmore Ethos

Not even a miniature "Teacup" Chiwawa chained with a miniature chain [made of monofilament fishing line formed into links with overall 99.9999999999% transparency]*1 to a bike rack while its minder / human server is absent while purchasing a Starbucks Venti Latte [from an underground Starbucks] should be allowed on the sidewalk without a permit

Anything except a person in transit or temporarily static while waiting for a traffic / pedestrian signal must have a permit to cast any shadow.

All structures must be underground with nothing protruding over the sidewalk except for a lip needed to isolate the stairs from being wetted by a spilled Starbucks Venti Latte or possibly a minor "accident" by a chained miniature "Teacup" Chiwawa

*1 and of course fully recyclable or made of a water soluble and fully biodegradable monofilament fishing line

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You mean the Kenmore Square Blue Bikes station and the Deerfield and Comm Ave station directly across the street?

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If we put the whole hotel underground, it would cast no shadows. Then, the whole plot of land could be a plaza with some nice trees. Oh wait, trees cast shadows too. So no trees. It could be like City Hall plaza then. Lots of historic bricks. No shadows. Sounds perfect to me. Everyone will love it.

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Voting closed 8

Speck is the same New Urbanist who floated changing several intersections on Somerville's Broadway into Italian piazzas: complete with obelisks and cobblestone. Cars would tear it up in days. Plus, if you're in a wheelchair you would have no chance of making it across. Now Speck is proposing shifting a tower into an intersection. Alongside the shadow issues, he wants to shove both Boylston and Commonweath traffic onto one small B.O.H. road. Plus, the new plaza surface, based on his track record, will likely have ADA compliance issues. This new Boston pitch by Speck exemplifies why New Urbanism is always nice to look at but is always problematic

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Voting closed 4

yah, tough to comment on that new configuration not knowing what the traffic numbers are.

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When this inevitable topic comes up of missing the way Kenmore Square used to be, there is always someone who posts that it is just the nostalgia of an aging rock and roller like me. But all I can tell you is that it was real, it was urban, it was full of adventure. Now it is so clinical as to be almost non-existent. I don't know why "upscale" always equals clinical and boring.

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Voting closed 20

*oldmanscreamingatclouds.gif*

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The Rat era, or the earlier one when it was full of hotels? Some of them are now BU dorms.

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The Rat era and the hotel era overlap. During the Rat days there was aHoward Johnsons on Comm Ave, now a BU dorm. There was also the old fleabag Buckminister (part of which also served as band rehearsal space for a while) which was replaced by the newer, upscale Buckminister.

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Voting closed 3

Read Charlegate Confidential. There are many "real" Kenmore squares by era

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Voting closed 1

This thing looks like a wooden stake through the heart of Kenmore square. The transformation is complete. All traces of the old Kenmore shall be gone. This upscale dystopian poopscape got off to a nice start with the Disney-Parisian Hotel Commonwealth. This thing finishes the job nicely. Our beloved square is now out of it's misery.

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Voting closed 4

...detailing the proposed changes:

https://vimeo.com/314058356

Reading through the Globe piece, I see no mention that the second building has been nixed - it could be that the firm was hired to focus specifically on this project and the second was out of scope.

What's presented has gotten me very excited - these are major improvements for the square and those walking through. And the building looks nice too.

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Voting closed 11

I've added the video to the original post.

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Voting closed 2

So the developer (who was having trouble getting neighbors to support the lower height) says screw it and went up another 10-15 floors, while also re-routing the high-trafficked intersection around this hotel & pushing his building into the road? He's got balls, I'll give him that. This has 0% chance of being approved.

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Voting closed 7

This is a business district and always has been.

I'll never get how people who live within a five mile radius think they have veto power.

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Voting closed 6

More room for pedestrians and cyclists? Replacing a tiny bank with something useful? Sounds good.

Walking around Kenmore is a nightmare. Pedestrians are treated like trash. It takes forever to get walk signals and when you do drivers will try to kill you by running red lights. Its ridiculous.

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Voting closed 40

Does look like it will slow down the inbound Route 57 buses. Maybe part of the pedestrian plaza can be sacrificed for a bus-only lane so the buses can be prioritized over cars entering Kenmore Square.

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Voting closed 6

This would importantly significantly reduce the amount of open asphalt in Kenmore Sq, add a new pedestrian plaza, create a new street to divert traffic, create protected bike lanes and shorter crosswalks. This is a monumental vision and exactly the kind of thing we should expect from developers and reward when they bring them forward. Bravo.

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Voting closed 45

Increased bricks. Boston FTW.

I don't know that the massive, isolated apron of hardscape in front of the new building is really good for much.

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Voting closed 8

They don't do much for the heat island effect, but they can do a lot for permeability and soaking up stormwater provided the substructure is set up properly.

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Brick piazzas can also have built in gaps for tree plantings, whereas you can't plant a tree in the middle of the road :)

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Couldn't disagree more. The building is phenomenal but the plan for the street is awful. Why is someone seriously suggesting that a public street, a boulevard, be moved so that a private developer can make bank?

We are in an unparalleled growth and construction boom. We shouldn't need to give away streets to encourage development! Plazas are nice but this one is on the north side of a building. The Comm Ave proposal takes a difficult but understandable intersection and turns it into car oriented soup. It's so old fashioned as to be embarrassing for whoever came up with the idea.

Which probably means were are stuck with this mess.

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Voting closed 4

This proposal is soooooo much better than the last one!

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not highrise skyscraper.

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No, 5-10 stories is mid-rise. 30 is high-rise.

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I think this proposal is swell. Special shoutout for the video. I know it's a sales piece, but it's very simple, very clear, and very easy for a layman like me to understand. If it goes through, I just hope construction doesn't negatively impact the T too much, though some pretty major disruption is probably inevitable.

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Voting closed 13

But if I was going to cut a road to one way only - it would be Beacon outbound - leaving Comm Ave as is. Have the new cut through be a one way from Comm inbound to Beacon outbound only, no turning across Beacon traffic to go left. In fact I wonder if it would be possible to eliminate every left turn in that end of the square.

Also flattening the Brookline Ave and Beacon St bridges over the turnpike should be a priority. Just dig the turnpike trench a little lower there if you need to for truck clearance. Then add width to the bridge decking so you can have small shops and restaurants and such along both sides of the bridges.

I also still don't understand why Brookline Ave is not shut down [from Kenmore to the Landmark] to all but emergency and ADA traffic during Red Sox games.

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Voting closed 8

Yes, it's a big building. It will have plenty of friends down the street. That's what happens in a city.

The design looks to be a huge improvement. The current bank building looks like something out of Palmer, MA and has no value to the square. The new building will help with the horrible pedestrian crossings.

As someone who've lived in this part of the city for a long time, I fully support this design and project. Get it done.

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"The current bank building looks like something out of Palmer, MA ". :-) :-)

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The current bank building looks like something out of Palmer, MA

Before or after Hurricane Irene?

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I'm not sure why you'd still want to maintain the left turn from outbound Comm Ave to Brookline Ave. Just make them go "around the square" like a rotary until they get to Brookline Ave. So they'd left turn onto the new street, left again onto Beacon's rightmost lane, then right turn down Brookline Ave.

This removes one more place for pedestrians to get run over and removes the likelihood that you'll get traffic backed up across Beacon's access to Comm Ave inbound during the 80+ Sox game days every year.

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connect the vast brick island the hotel will be marooned on to something ... even if it is the Kenmore bus station.

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Part of this makes sense and cleaning up and simplifying pedestrian and vehicle movement through Kenmore square is a noble and needed goal. The proposed building is too wide however and will ruin the site lines down Commonwealth Ave inbound. From the video it appears traveling down Comm. ave inbound would end not in the view of Kenmore square but be a visual dead end into the back this proposed building. I like the idea of giving Kenmore square a real center and have no problem with making cars secondary or even with the scale of a tall building here. I do, however, have a problem with reshaping the space of the square, its approaches and its traditional site lines in order to satisfy the need for a larger real estate profit. This is a start to an important conversation but needs more and better urban design thinking.

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You'd lose the Pru in the distance and the facing of the Hotel Commonwealth until you got around the corner on the Beacon St side.
You'd still see the Citgo sign as it's far enough to the side that it would appear over the new pedestrian plaza area.

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If the sight lines in Kenmore Square changed I think I'd faint! We must never change the way anything looks ever!

I want my grandkids's grandkids to have the same gorgeous view down Comm Ave so they too can see the ugly Hotel Commonwealth and the dirty windows on the bus stop.

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Voting closed 6

Isn't the trend in urban design heading towards two-way streets? For example, see Union Square, Somerville. It used to have a design similar to this one, one street one-way into the square, the other one-way out. But now they're both two-way.

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Can't look at the proposal right now, but Stantec, Reed Hildebrand, and Speck are big names.

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The BPDA has posted the developer's slide show, which features a number of renderings of the proposed building and new Kenmore Square layout (caveat for mobile users: It's a 62M PDF).

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As a 57 bus rider, I cannot see how routing everything through this new road isn't going to create an enormous gridlocked cluster. The "new street" is relatively short, and there's a large volume of traffic heading eastbound on Comm Ave. So, you're going to add another three light cycles for that traffic, which will back it up and lock the grid all the way from the corner of Beacon/Comm Ave back through the new street and onto Comm Ave. And then you hope to use the same street but flowing in a different direction for Beacon Street traffic? Not in this "block the box, what's that?" town, you don't.

Instead of these pleasant abstractions, run a realistic simulation with typical traffic volumes and vehicle sizes and proposed light cycles. It won't be pretty.

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Think of it as a big traffic circle. The lights will be timed to flow traffic in the direction they want to go, all in coordination. Nobody will be sitting in the "circle" (all the little crossing streets) very long at all because the next light will always seem green for them.

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