Old Dover Will Apply for ‘Slow Street’ District on Harrison Avenue

By Seth Daniel

With creative crosswalks and parklets with panache on their minds, the Old Dover Neighborhood Association was won over unanimously Tuesday night, Feb. 21, to apply to have a City-sponsored ‘Slow Street’ district on Harrison Avenue.

President Ken Smith said he proposed emphatically to apply for the district, which is a new program from the City of Boston to complement the recent decrease in the default speed limit to 20 mph. The Association listened to a presentation by member Chris Ritter about enhancing the crosswalk on Thayer Street and Harrison Avenue.

Ritter said, in the bigger picture, the effort that began with just a crosswalk problem looks to be the catalyst for moving to a Slow Streets District.

“It looks like the effort is lining up with the Slow Streets program nicely,” he said. “There are a couple hundred residents, gallery owners and business owners who have this one crosswalk to use.”

Board member Brad St. Amand of GTI Properties said he recommended putting in an application before the March 24 deadline for Harrison Avenue between E. Berkeley Street and Union Park.

“There’s really no planning at this stage,” he said. “It’s whether we want to submit an application as a neighborhood association for this. Maybe we can put in an application and see if we can get it to the top of the stack and then we can figure out the deeper elements.”

Said Chris Wells, “I think it’s a no-brainer and we should pursue it any way we can.”

It was a unanimous vote.

Ritter’s presentation, however, spanned much more than just the proposal for Slow Streets.

Beginning at the crosswalk, he showed how slower speeds would help safety for the motorists, how eliminating a few parking spaces just before the crosswalk and creating a bump out could improve visibility of pedestrians.

Interestingly, he proposed that the numerous artists and designers in the SoWa District collaborate to create an artistic, colorful design for the crosswalk that not only draws attention to the crossing, but also signals that one is in a special, art and design district.

“This is an arts district so we should do something creative,” he said. “We have a couple hundred artists in the neighborhood. I’m sure someone could come up with a cool pattern. It could help announce this is an arts district. When you’re driving up Harrison Avenue, you may not know all the galleries are there.”

The crosswalk could be problematic though.

Member Liz Cahill said the history of that particular cross walk is that it is not official, and was built during construction of previous developments for temporary use. However, like many things that are temporary, it became unofficially permanent.

One key, all agreed, was figuring out how to make the crosswalk legal and how many street parking spots will have to be lost to make that happen.

Beyond that, Ritter had interesting ideas for Parklets, whether temporary or permanent.

Parklets are a somewhat new idea where small parks are created in parking spaces on a temporary basis with anything from lounge chairs to mini-golf courses.

Some worried about the safety of such Parklets on the street, and it was suggested that any such efforts could be located on the sidewalk, while moving the sidewalk temporarily onto the street parking space.

More is expected to be reported on the matter at the March meeting.

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