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Engaging communities + Provoking change

​Implementation: A recap

On Wednesday May 10, Implementation, the fourth and final event in the Fulfilling the Promise: Community Building and the Emerald Necklace series, shared the knowledge and know-how needed to successfully complete Boston’s Emerald Necklace along Columbia Road. The panelists brought both local and global perspectives to this invigorating and ongoing conversation.

Marie Law Adams AIA, founding principal of Landing Studio, offered unique insight into her work to integrate infrastructure and public realm projects in both Boston and New York. Andrew Howard AICP, co-founder of Better Block and principal of Better Block Consulting, shared the successes of small, grassroots tactical urbanism projects worldwide. Mark Klopfer AIA, ASLA, principal of Klopfer Martin Design Group, brought a landscape perspective to the table with a robust portfolio of public realm projects everywhere from Abu Dhabi to Shanghai.

Event moderator Matthew Kiefer, director at Goulston & Storrs, also provided valuable perspective  into the complexities of land-use planning, design, and policy when undertaking an ambitious project such as the completion of the Emerald Necklace.

Embracing the collaborative and creative nature of community planning, the conversation was designed to be as inclusive and organic as possible. Following a few focused questions for the panel from the moderator, community members were encouraged to ask questions and share their own ideas. 

This community conversation yielded the following pieces of advice for greenway and corridor planning and the completion of the Emerald Necklace: 

  • Define the opportunity. Make sure that community members, team members and civic leaders have a shared understanding of the project and its potential. A “T” shaped engagement process that offers both breadth and depth of topic may help to facilitate this shared understanding.
  • Strive for a timeless design. Our ideas about design change quickly and as a result design trends change quickly. The most successful designs are therefore those that can speak to both the past and future—just like the Emerald Necklace itself.
  • Create a destination. In addition to serving as critical urban connectors, greenways and corridors can also be destinations in and of themselves. For Columbia Road, this might mean introducing new or improving existing cultural or community assets that would benefit the surrounding neighborhoods. It might also mean enhancing adjacent elements of the Emerald Necklace, such as Franklin Park.
  • Shoot for local flair and funding. The best public spaces are those that feel like a part of the community itself. Such spaces are often supported by local developers, small business owners and community members alike. Together with public private partnerships and other creative funding mechanisms, such groups can provide not just economic but also social investment in the community. (Fun fact: a local developer partnered with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to create the new Ink Underground park that is located under I-93 in the South End and designed by Landing Studio.)
  • Think big, start small. Find new ways of interpreting public space at all scales. It is important to understand the big picture and how to get there. In the case of the Columbia Road corridor, this means first appreciating this corridor’s unique scale within the city. At 2.3 miles long, this corridor represents an opportunity as grand as the Greenway, Esplanade or Emerald Necklace itself. However, small scale interventions and short term urban solutions (such as parklets or temporary bike lanes) could be a great way to get people excited about and onboard with a bigger vision.

Of course, none of this can be achieved without the right team. That’s why it is essential to engage and involve everyone from designers and economists to local community members and civic leaders from the very beginning of the planning process. This series did just that. Over the course of the spring 2017.

A great start to a great project, Fulfilling the Promise: Community Building and the Emerald Necklace series, truly brought our community and city together to understand and analyze the opportunity at hand. The series achieved its goal to frame this exciting project by not only getting people thinking, but also talking.

By continuing the conversations started here and following the remarkable advice of the series’ thoughtful speakers and community participants, Boston is now poised and prepared to help steward the creation of its next great public space. 

Fulfilling the Promise: Community Building and the Emerald Necklace, a program of the BSA Foundation, is sponsored by the Chleck Family Foundation.

View the video that was broadcast on Facebook live below.

To learn more about how the BSA Foundation is making an impact in communities, please come to BSA Space for a one hour “tour” of BSA Foundation programs. Meet with Foundation leaders and volunteers to learn broadly about the Foundation’s work and its impact. Foundation Conversation meetings are held on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month. Events are free, but seats are limited. Check for upcoming dates and to reserve your seat.