Third Meeting Held for Copley Square Park Redesign Project

The Boston Parks and Recreation Department is in the middle of a design process to provide some needed updates to Copley Square Park. 

A third public meeting regarding the Copley Square Park redesign project was held on April 14, where the project team proposed some designs that were based off of some feedback that has been gathered from the community.

B Chatfield, a project manager for the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, said that construction is currently planned for after the marathon in the spring and summer of 2022, with an opening in 2023.

Radhika Mahan of planning and design firm Sasaki went over several reasons why the square needs renovations, including that the trees are under a lot of stress, the fountain needs repairs, the pavement is uneven, and the lawn is not in good shape.

“The challenges run deeper than Copley’s surface,” the presentation read, as the square is heavily used by the public for things like the farmer’s market, a place to meet friends, and a place to skateboard, which have caused it to become worn down.

“Our project continues to coordinate with the BPL Master Plan team,” Mahan said, to collaborate on ways to make the two projects work together.

She then went through different conceptual options for the square that include a large platform scheme, a raised crossings scheme, and a framed ellipse scheme. She said that the hope is to “maintain and reinforce some of the significant features of today’s square,” and maintain an “open view” between the Boston Public Library (BPL) and the Trinity Church. It will still include a fountain area, a lawn area, and a plaza area.

Kate Tooke of Sasaki said that “the vision for Copley needs to be updated,” and it “needs to be a 21st century space that can support 21st century urban life.”

She also spoke about trees in the square, saying they want to preserve the tree canopy, and they had discussed with the community how best to preserve the trees. The trees will need more soil to thrive, she added.

Tooke also talked about the proposed platform, saying that it will provide “key views of the surrounding architecture and civic activity,” as well as become a “signature gathering space” that is slightly elevated.

The proposed concept for the fountain will continue to be refined, she added, but is proposed to be next to the lawn and able to be viewed from the platform. It will also include a textured slope and a waterfall.

Tooke said that the plaza could be drivable for events like the farmer’s market, where vehicles would need to have access to bring goods onto the site.

“The goal is to be resilient to different kinds of vehicular traffic,” she said.

The new design would also allow for larger events to take place in the square, including a possible 40 by 60 foot stage setup, and the infrastructure would allow for tents to be set up as well.

The project as a whole hopes to create a “renewed square” that connects the area’s cultural institutions as well as protects the existing trees.

In the chat, there were some comments that there was too much paving proposed and not enough grass.

“I feel like I grew up in Copley Square,” said City Councilor Kenzie Bok. “I am a lifelong parishioner of Trinity Church,” as well as a “longtime attendee of the farmer’s market and user of the BPL. It’s just such a treasured civic space for those of us in the Back Bay and for the whole city.”

The team also addressed a concern about skateboarding in the square.

Chatfield said that the parks department is “not opposed to skateboarders,” but “we understand that they use public space and they can be wonderful people.”

However, “our redesign is not seeking to accommodate that use,” she said. She said that although the proposed platform is a “large angled piece of material and that can be enticing to skateboarders,” and the proposed linear benches might have the same effect, they will be designed to discourage skateboarders from using them.

She said that the parks department has worked to identify spaces in the city that can be used for skateboarding instead of places like this.

The team will continue to refine the design in the coming months and then construction documentation will be drawn up, with construction set to begin in the summer of 2022.

More information on the Copley Square redesign as well as the full videos from all three meetings can be found at boston.gov/departments/parks-and-recreation/improvements-copley-square-park. There is also a community survey that can be filled out.

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