By John Lynds
Central Square Project Manager Charlotte Fleetwood, representing the City of Boston Transportation Department, was on hand during a community meeting with East Boston business owners last week to give an update on the ongoing rehab project.
Over the past few months Eastie business owners have become anxious over when the project will wrap up. The project has caused a disruption to traffic patterns and parking in the square, making it a place to avoid rather than a place to visit.
For the Central Square business district the rehab has been both a blessing and a curse, much like the Maverick Square rehab project several years ago. On one hand business owners will have to deal with a few more months of construction but on the other hand the square will be more appealing and user friendly once done.
Fleetwood said the project has shut down for the construction season and crews will resume work in late March. The city’s contractor for the project, McCourt Construction Company, reported that the project is on budget and on schedule and should be completed sometime in July.
Fleetwood confirmed that the a lot of work has focused on rerouting the water mains that will recycle water so rain and runoff is not dumped into the Boston Harbor. This extra environmental feature was something the community had asked for during the design phase of the project.
“A lot of what is going on is underground work,” said Fleetwood. “So while it looks like not much progress a lot of major work has been completed. Now we’ve begun roadwork construction and that’s why you’ve started to see sidewalks go in and tree pits being marked.”
One concern business owners and residents at the meeting had was the disappearance of a line of about a dozen trees along the sidewalk in front of Liberty Plaza. Earlier rendering of the project showed these trees but later drawings eliminated the line of trees. The city explained that this was due to the fact that the line of trees depicted was not on city property but property owned by the Lombardo Company. Residents asked the city to work with the Lombardo Company to work on a solution of adding more trees and shade down that stretch of sidewalk in front of Liberty Plaza.
The $8 million project will include a reorganization of parking to improve access for businesses, new traffic signals at key intersections, shorter pedestrian crossings, and additional trees and landscaping. The design was finalized after a year-long community process back in 2010.