Freshgate Tunnel

Website questions:

Who is proposing this idea?

All work on this project was done by volunteers without compensation. A small group developed the ideas, prepared the drawings, text and graphics, and built the website. The group includes people who studied architecture, urban design, planning, public administration, fine arts, film making, and computer programming. Some of us reside around greater Boston, others are further afield: One lives in Brooklyn, New York, beside Frederic Law Olmstead's Prospect Park; another lives in Hamburg, Germany, near the Alster Basin (a forerunner of the Charles River Basin).

Why do this project?

Renewal of civic vision is the goal of this website. This project was inspired by Karl Haglund's recently published book entitled "Inventing the Charles River" (with foreword by Renata von Tscharner, published in cooperation with the Charles River Conservancy, 2003 MIT Press), which chronicles a history of realized and unrealized urban visions for the Charles River Basin and its surrounds. The introduction to this book ends with the following paragraph:

  • "In the history of America's cities, the invention of the basin is an uncommon and remarkable landmark. The place of the Charles in the city of the twenty-first century will depend on a renewal of the civic vision that created this extraordinary legacy."

Civic vision may arise from large institutions, from professionals, and from community processes, but the most resonant civic visions arise from discourse between all these interests. While this website is not the product of a community process, we hope it helps stimulate the vision communities need if broad, unifying civic visions are to mature. Here are several rephrased questions from the introduction to Inventing the Charles River:

  • In the invention of the Charles River, who will propound the visions of the river's future?
  • How will these visions be shared?
  • What of new schemes might be realized?
  • How might events of the twenty-first century change Greater Bostonians' view of the public realm?"

Why make this website now?

The time is ripe. Harvard University has recently taken several large strides in a long-range planning and development process for Allston and Brighton. Their process, named the Allston Initiative, advanced in earnest on November 21, 2003 with a speech by President Lawrence H. Summers. Here is a link to that speech.

Harvard University made four faculty committee Allston Initiative reports available to the public in May 2004, and in June 2004, announced the names of the design firms hired to do master planning for Allston Initiative. HERE is a link to the faculty reports. HERE is a link to the press release of design firms hired.

A public process of long-range planning or vision-development for urban areas around the Charles River Basin should really be going on concurrently with Harvard's process. Since Harvard's process has begun, it is time for discussion of public visions to begin too. These two processes of vision development could and should have enormous influence on one another.

Who has seen this drawing?

Access to this website was restricted for several months to community organizations, neighborhood groups, community development corporations in Allston, Brighton Cambridge, and Fenway, and a few authors of books about the Charles River Basin. Some non-profit organizations - such as the Charles River Conservancy, the Charles River Watershed Association, and the People for Riverbend Park Trust - also had access to the site.

The groups listed above had time to review, digest, and discuss this vision, and similar visions that this one may have helped bring to light. Until this website it was opened for all, in September 2004, no public sector groups, planning departments, agencies, city, state or federal offices, no one from the media, and no one from any schools, hospitals, or universities had access.

Since the ideas in this website originated entirely outside of large institutions, they may be more likely to help spawn open public discussion. Vigorous, expanding civic discourse preceding engagement with entities of power and resources may strengthen potential alliances between communities and those entities, conducive to bringing such visions to reality. If this vision broadens and hones the discussion that Harvard University will have with many interest groups in the near future, then this website will have served one of its main purposes.

How accurate is this drawing?

The drawing is not 100% accurate, but it is accurate enough for the purpose of sharing this vision. It was drawn from scratch on AutoCAD LT. It began as a tracing over an aerial photograph. While roads, bridges and the river are more accurately drawn, the locations of existing buildings are only roughly accurate.

Where did this idea come from?

Much of the vision just grew as we drew. Aside from the aforementioned book, Inventing the Charles River, important sources of inspiration were the examples of two people with civic vision:

  • Isabella Halsted's vision for Riverbend Park.
  • Steve Kaiser's efforts to see his vision considered for the new Charles River Crossing of the 'Big Dig' (he called it the All-Tunnel Plan) as an alternative to the highway interchange that has been built at the "lost half mile" just below the Green Line Viaduct over the New Charles River Basin.

Several people were instrumental with the text and images, most notably Ghanda DiFiglia, David Langton, Max Hall, and Judith Zinker. The drawing was made by Christopher Schniewind Weller, as was the initial draft of the text, and the initial concept.

This website was designed and built entirely by David Langton. If the vision presented here is understandable, it is because of David's tenacious effort, skill, and patience. Both Andy Towl and Renata von Tscharner proposed vital revisions to the concept and presentation. Werburg Doerr and Andy Towl were centrally important through their early and steadfast encouragement.

If you have questions, comments, or especially if you would like to help, feel free to contact us:
ideas@freshgatetunnel.net

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