Moving Boston Backward…

Daniel H. Burnham's Filene's Building
Daniel H. Burnham's Filene's Building

If you live in Boston, you’re witnessing history unfold right before your eyes. This November, Bostonians head to the polls to elect a new City Mayor. For the last 16 years, Boston has had but one Mayor, Thomas Menino, who is running for re-election with the slogan “Moving Boston Forward.”

Mayor Menino, correct me if I am wrong, but shouldn’t your slogan read “Moving Boston Backward”?

The Mayor’s plans to revitalize the city have gone bust! Development projects here and there have stopped completely and the demolition of buildings continue to move forward. “Urban Removal” anyone?

Downtown Crossing, known as the “heart of Boston” has seen its share of a poorly implemented plan to revitalize the area. Daniel Burnham’s only building in Boston, the Filene’s Building has been at the center of this plan.  The heart of Boston has stopped beating to the rhythms of a vibrant city shopping life with the recent demolition of the addition to Burnham’s masterpiece. This has been the declivity of Downtown Crossing. Storefronts after storefronts remain vacant, announcing to the world the end of a once thriving shopping district.

The streets in Downtown Crossing are flooded daily with high school dropouts or soon to be dropouts yelling obscenities at each other, showing off their latest Air Jordan and Nike sneakers as if to pretend they can afford to buy them.  Even tourists are staying away from Downtown Crossing.

Downtown Crossing is decaying.  Around the corner from this disaster, a new high rise, very expensive condominium tower was recently completed, but from what I hear, sales are down. Who knew? Who wants to live in an area where there isn’t much happening especially in this gloomy economy?!

To the future Mayor of Boston: Please move Boston forward, eradicate the word demolition off your agenda, and stop demolishing  buildings to construct new ones for expensive condominiums that the middle class cannot even afford.  Stop creating more blight, Boston does not need any more of it!

Decaying Downtown Crossing
Decaying Downtown Crossing

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Bruce Dillenbeck says:

    Both Michael Flaherty and Sam Yoon who are running on Boston Mayoral ticket have called for the elimination on the Boston Redevelopment Authority. On Flaherty’s web site:

    you’ll find a detailed nine page critique of the BRA and the lack of thoughtful planning that is holding the city back. It also criticizes Mayor Menino with playing favorites with developers. The Boston Globe published an article on this theme that implies you have to pay to play in the City of Boston (i.e. – contribute to Mayor’s campaign fund) if you want to see your project move forward. Refer to:

    When the city’s development process becomes an extension on one man’s ego good urban planning goes out the window and we see the results that you outlined in your story.

  2. Edward Duffy says:

    While there are plenty of reasons to be critical of Menino’s BRA, I’m not convinced this is one of them. The original Filenes is a very grand and well-loved building, but I don’t think ANY tears were shed for the removal of the rather dreadful addition that stood next to it. And both of them were substantially vacant for a while. Further, affordable housing is a city-wide problem that a single project is not going to remedy.

    Creating a mix of new retail, office, hotel, and residential development- luxury or otherwise- will only help to reinvigorate Downtown Crossing and contribute to it being a 24-hour neighborhood. The real villain here is an ill-conceived political ideology that allowed Wall Street to run completely amuck and drive the national economy to the brink of disaster. Until there is a more general recovery there will not be any incentive to invest and build these kind of risky, but potentially ‘game-changing’ anchor complexes. Happily there are smaller institutional projects being built further up Washington Street, in the wake of the success of the Millenium Towers and Lowe’s theaters, that should further assist in creating a renaissance of Downtown Crossing and the Ladder District in the not too distant future. (Fingers crossed.)

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