Washington Street Public Realm Plan

The Washington Street Public Realm Plan is a six-point strategy established to aid in the revitalization of Boston's historic Main Street, concentrating on Washington Street between Court Street at Government Center and Kneeland Street in Chinatown.

The Plan, issued by Mayor Thomas M. Menino in June 1996, has focused its efforts on improvements by the City that could most effectively strengthen the marketability of the district and attract additional economic investment.

The fundamental idea of the plan posited that a properly conceived and designed public realm contributes significantly to the social and economic health of Washington Street and its environs. The Plan focused on six essential strategies for improving the public space of the street and the activities that occur along it:

  • Invest in Streetscape Improvements and Activities
  • Maintain Streetscape Improvements and Enforcement
  • Enhance Public Safety
  • Establish a Business Improvement District
  • Market Business and Investment Opportunities
  • Establish a Special Design Overlay District

Over the life of the plan many changes and developments have occurred and are still underway. The Washington Street Public Realm Plan incorporated physical improvements to the streetscape by reconstructing the sidewalks which extended the pedestrian zone of Downtown Crossing along Washington Street to Avenue de Lafayette and by installing the police kiosk at Downtown Crossing. Further, to safeguard the street's historical character and to protect those eccentricities that make the street unique, the BRA has worked with the Downtown Crossing Association to update the current Signage Guideline codes and will continue to work on building facade and development design guidelines.

Equally important, the Plan addressed the critical issues of how the street is maintained and functions on a day-to-day basis. A proposed Business Improvement District or BID is currently under review by the state legislature.

Several new developments are already completed along Washington Street including the renovated Lafayette Corporate Center with offices and ground floor retail, and the renovated historic Liberty Tree Building for the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Others are under construction such as Millennium Place with theaters, hotel, condominiums, health club, ground floor retail and the restoration of the façade of the Paramount Theater, and the former Tello’s Building at 443 Washington Street which will provide 58 units of housing and 5 units of affordable housing. Washington Street continues to be the center of a vibrant neighborhood, building towards a 24-hour area where people work, shop, enjoy cultural events, and live.

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