BOSTON

Pop-Up Plaza ‘Copley Connect' Opens Wednesday in Boston

The 10-day pilot program will transform part of Dartmouth Street into an outdoor plaza

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A transformation is underway on the stretch of Dartmouth St. between Copley Square and the Boston Public Library’s Central Branch. Instead of bumper-to-bumper traffic and honking, the street will be occupied by activities and performances for the next 10 days.

“We are making an outdoor library classroom and lounge here. There will be food trucks. In the center, we will have a center stage with performances with salsa lessons with music performances, a little bit of tumbling and circus performance and then at the very end we are going to have a community engagement booth where people will be able to tell us what they think,” designer Courtney Goode said.

Goode is part of the Boston Planning & Redevelopment Agency team that worked for hours Tuesday setting up the pop-up plaza. They painted a temporary new bike lane, set up outdoor seating and installed planters, in the middle of the street.

“It’s huge for the urban life, the vitality of this kind of space, to be able to have a continuous really vibrant urban space like this shut down to car traffic just allows people to feel safe and kind of feel like this is a place for them to be, to spend time to kind of enjoy living in the city in this walkable vibrant area.”

“We really like to think about the streets as more than just places to move cars. It's really about how we connect with our neighborhoods, with our neighbors,” said Boston’s Chief of Streets, Jascha Franklin-Hodge.

He says this pilot project -- called “Copley Connect” -- could become a long-term fixture.

“It's possible," Franklin-Hodge said. "This is truly an experiment.”

The city is studying how this street closure affects traffic patterns in the area, especially along major streets, like Boylston St. and Commonwealth Ave., where traffic is likely to be diverted.

“We're monitoring all the streets in the surrounding area, looking at vehicle counts, pedestrians, any kind of congestion," Franklin-Hodge added. "We're really trying to see what works both in terms of the transportation effects on the network, but also in terms of what we hear from the public.”

Darrel Goldston lives downtown and worries about the traffic that could be caused by drivers being forced to drive around the closure.

“I think it’s a good idea that we spend some time trying to make the city more fun, give us more things to do because [coronavirus has] been around," Goldston said, "but we also have to take a look at the people who actually live and work in the area. How are they going to be able to [deal with] 10 days of this?”

Feedback collected by Copley Connect will also help inform planning for the Boston Public Library’s redesign of Dartmouth Plaza outside the Central Library which aims to make the plaza a place for gathering. BPL President David Leonard says this pilot program allows the library to extend it services to the street.

“It's really about taking, for us, library programming and using it to activate civic space,” Leonard said.

“I love it,” said Renee Johnson, she owns a skin care business called AMAL and was selling at the farmer’s market at Copley Square. “Anything that brings some unity in the area I think we need it right now to gather together and just enjoy the outside and enjoy each other, you know it’s been tough.”

A list of events happening on Dartmouth St. can be found here.

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