“Boston’s Lost Island Neighborhood
The plan was breathtaking in its ambition: to build a whole new chunk of Boston, a boldly modern new section of the city stretching out into the harbor.
A cross-shaped grid of floating platforms would carry hundreds of acres of soaring block-like buildings and public plazas. The site, stretching from Dorchester’s Columbia Point out to one of the harbor islands, would first serve as a site for the 1976 World Expo, attracting visitors from around the world. Then it would become home to a brand-new neighborhood with housing for tens of thousands, public space designed to be a modern version of Boston Common, and a new subway line.
It was perhaps the most dramatic reimagining of Boston’s landscape in the past half-century. It never happened, of course: The plan fell victim to local politics, and the very idea of a 1976 World Expo disintegrated as the country became caught up in the political and economic uncertainty of the era.
But now this all-but-forgotten plan has resurfaced at the center of a conversation about whether it’s time for Boston to reclaim that sense of vision. The World Expo site was the heart of the inaugural exhibit at the Boston Society of Architects’ new public space near the waterfront. The exhibit’s curators—a group of young architects who also curate the pinkcomma gallery in the South End—and a handful of other thinkers citywide are taking a fresh look at the big planning era of the 1950s and ’60s, an age when Boston still dared to dream big and offer sweeping visions of what the city’s future might be.
Today that era of big planning is known chiefly for the damage it did, the high-handed urban renewal programs that scarred Boston with the memories of demolished neighborhoods and soulless rebuilding. The city and its residents have spent decades understandably wary of such ideas. But these critics point out that the city’s 40-year turn away from that kind of broad vision has also cost us opportunities in developing Boston’s neighborhoods. At a time when Boston seems hamstrung by a piecemeal planning process that leaves the city vulnerable to the whims and fortunes of individual building developers, it’s worth asking if the city needs a different approach to shape its future. And that question has many people reexamining the expo plan—a bold and optimistic souvenir of a time when Boston wasn’t afraid to look ahead.”
Via: The Boston Globe