Mayor Michelle Wu has announced the reopening of City Hall Plaza.
The recently completed renovation transformed the Plaza into a civic space for all residents, with universal accessibility, new communal spaces, increased environmental sustainability, and critical infrastructure improvements that will ensure the plaza is safe and accessible for generations to come.
“City Hall Plaza is a space to bring people together and build community,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “I’m grateful for the work of all our City workers and partners to transform the plaza into a welcoming, resilient, and accessible space for residents and visitors to enjoy.”
The plaza design and implementation was led by global design firm Sasaki, based in Watertown, Mass. Shawmut Design and Construction was the construction manager for the project. The project was managed through the City’s Operations Cabinet by the Public Facilities Department in partnership with the Property Management Department and was assisted by owners project manager Skanska USA.
“City Hall plaza is the people’s plaza, and it is now a civic front yard that ALL can access and take pleasure in,” said Chief of Operations Dion Irish. “I’m excited to see our community enjoy our playground, event spaces, our new pavilion and the reopened north entrance to City Hall. The Public Facilities Department, project partners, and numerous City agencies did an amazing job working together, with community input, to create a signature civic space that aligns with our goals and values.”
“We are proud of the bold vision the City embraced to make Boston City Hall Plaza an inviting and accessible outdoor public space,” said Fiske Crowell, Sasaki principal and architect. “A robust community engagement process helped us transform the Plaza from a harsh outdoor environment into a new green space where all are welcome. We are excited to celebrate the reopening of both the plaza and the expanded north entry to the building.”
“To be tasked with the transformation of one of Boston’s most beloved and historic spaces has been a tremendous honor,” said Kevin Sullivan, executive vice president of Shawmut Design and Construction’s New England region. “Through this extensive renewal with our partners from the City of Boston and Sasaki, we’ve reinvigorated City Hall Plaza to create a more accessible, sustainable, and connected public destination at Boston’s civic heart that will serve as a forward-thinking attraction for generations to come.”
City Hall Plaza’s redesign includes a focus on:
A Welcoming Front Yard for Civic Life
With Boston’s renovated City Hall Plaza, this community space will become universally accessible for residents of all abilities. Opening up the Plaza for all includes re-opening the second floor of City Hall Plaza to the public, allowing easier access to the building.
“I am thrilled that City Hall Plaza is now welcoming and accessible to people with disabilities,” said Kristen McCosh, Boston’s Disability Commissioner. “City officials really listened to input from the disability community, and they made access the top priority. Before this renovation, it was extremely difficult for disabled people to navigate the expansive brick Plaza, which provides a vital connection between Congress Street and Cambridge Street. But the uneven brick and numerous stairways have been replaced with smooth unit pavers and gently sloped walkways. Now when people with disabilities ask where the accessible route across City Hall Plaza is, I can say, ‘You don’t understand – the whole plaza is accessible now, not just one route!’”
In February, the City of Boston released a Call to Artists for public art to complement the renovation of City Hall Plaza. There were two separate opportunities outlined in the call. The first was a short-term artwork for the north entrance to the building. The second was for a graphics display for the exterior of City Hall. These commissions are envisioned as the first of a series of artworks for this site that will recognize and celebrate the stories of Boston and City Hall Plaza.
The City selected Rhea Vedro to create the short-term artwork, which will be a sculptural installation on the planting bed at the north entrance that will be installed for one year. Yuke Li was commissioned to create 2D graphics for the new display system on the west exterior wall of City Hall and the wall panels near the new civic pavilion, which will also be installed for one year. The graphics have been installed, and the sculpture is expected to be installed in spring 2023.
“Through activating City Hall Plaza with public art and cultural events, we’re cultivating a more inviting space that celebrates the communities that make up the city,” said Kara Elliott-Ortega, Chief of Arts and Culture. “We’re excited to be able to showcase Boston’s creative community while also transforming a historic civic space.”
Flexible and Accommodating Event Venues
The renovation of Boston City Hall Plaza expanded one of Boston’s largest event spaces, and created civic event spaces that can be used by all Boston residents. The renovation included creating seven new “plug and play” locations for community groups to utilize, with space for 10,000 to 12,0000 visitors on the main plaza and room for a 20,000 to 25,000 person gathering on the entire plaza.
A Model of Sustainability and Resilience
Creating a sustainable City Hall Plaza that meets the City’s environmental goals was one of the key parts of the plaza renovation, and this renovation will make City Hall Plaza one of Boston’s signature civic spaces environmentally sustainable, meeting Boston’s resilience standards.
The renovation includes an increase in green infrastructure through an increased use of permeable surfaces that will soak up stormwater. The design also includes 100 new trees, improving the shade, scale and air quality of the plaza. Fifty lights were replaced with efficient LED technology, and 22,500 feet of granite and brick paving were reused or recycled.
The Phase 1 City Hall Plaza project’s main goal was to make the plaza more accessible for all while delivering updated programming capabilities, adding infrastructure and making the plaza more sustainable. This $70 million investment will connect Congress and Cambridge Streets with an accessible sloped Hanover 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 12,000 people in a wide variety of potential configurations.