New Copley Square design will emphasize event space and greenery

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Construction is expected to begin next spring.

The new design of Copley Square will increase tree cover and add a lawn in front of Trinity Church. sasaki

Copley Square is about to undergo its biggest makeover since the 1980s.

Architectural firm Sasaki, which redesigned the square in the 1960s, is once again trying to redo the iconic Back Bay neighborhood. The redesign aims to better accommodate large crowds while making the square greener and more attractive to everyday passers-by. Construction is expected to begin next spring, shortly after the Boston Marathon, according to The Boston Globe.

The journey to get to this point has not been easy. Sasaki, which is preparing to move its offices from Watertown to downtown Boston, went through a three-phase community engagement process to judge how the city views Copley Square and what areas for improvement are most important. . In total, more than 2,500 people from across the region shared their comments, according to the firm.

The new design aims to balance the two ways the public sees Copley: either as a green oasis in a densely developed urban area, or as a destination landscape that draws people to the area for cultural and recreational reasons, according to Sasaki. .

As of last year, the company’s plan appeared finalized and officials hoped to begin construction by spring 2022, according to the World. But neighborhood concerns about the area’s fountain and lawn prompted the designers to tweak their plans even further.

The biggest change between the new Copley and the old one will be that the lawn and the paved area will be reversed. When construction is complete, a lawn will stretch directly in front of Trinity Church while “flexible landscaping” will cover the area along Dartmouth Street across from the Boston Public Library’s McKim Building. This hardstanding plaza will be geared toward hosting events, whether it’s the weekly Farmer’s Market or larger gatherings like First Night or a Celtics playoff watch party.

A rendering of the proposed redesign of Copley Square. (Sasaki)

Flipping the square to the Copley side closer to the BPL will better equip the space for the occasional closures of this part of Dartmouth Street. Last month, the city’s Copley Connect company experimented with this. He created a pedestrian-only space between Copley Square and the McKim Building, from St. James Avenue to Boylston Street. This “pop-up plaza” was intended to make extra space for library activities, the farmer’s market, food trucks, dance classes, yoga, and more.

It lasted 10 days and seemed to be a hit with business owners and tourists, the World reported. However, the closure of this block to traffic has caused headaches for drivers who regularly have to navigate Back Bay. City officials say they are studying the project and will release a report.

The BPL is also in the process of revitalizing its Dartmouth Street entrance area to better serve as a civic center and urban destination.

Copley’s revamped fountain will mimic the current look, but be shallower and offer more seating beside it, according to the World. It will also be more enveloped in greenery and tree cover. The plantings will be strategically placed to “protect the plaza from the street”, according to Sasaki.

A new fountain will be shallower and have more places to sit beside it. (Sasaki)

Another striking novelty will be a large raised platform next to the square, near the corner of Boylston and Dartmouth streets. This terrace will offer a unique view of the surrounding historical architecture. It will also incorporate a “raised grove” which will better protect some of the trees planted there by directing foot traffic away from the roots and providing more ground space. Overall, the new layout will have nearly twice as many trees but less open grass than the plaza’s current design.

Although millions are being poured into revamping Copley, some locals say it alone won’t solve all of the area’s problems. Back Bay Neighborhood Association President Elliot Laffer told the World that the square needs more city staff, especially security.

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