Tom Keane lives on Beacon Hill. He writes a column in the Boston Globe Magazine. This week he talks about a developer’s proposal to tear down the Government Center garage, replacing it with … well, something. See, “neighbors”, and I use that term loosely, have opinions wide and varied about what should go in its place.

… One Beacon Hill resident insists the builder make room for a new public school. A restaurant owner wants the parking spaces kept; the next speaker says there shouldn’t be any. A West End resident doesn’t want buildings at all; just green space. A North Ender, fearing dust and noise from demolition, wants the garage left as is. There are demands for affordable housing. Others argue the project is so large that it can’t be configured until planning is completed for the rest of the area.

It all sounds very familiar, and I leave feeling pessimistic about Raymond’s chances. Some – developers particularly – would wish this whole, complex approval process didn’t exist. Indeed, once upon a time, that was the case. Public review in Boston was minimal, which is what allowed the city to tear down the old West End, erect City Hall, and, of course, give us the Government Center garage. The fear of repeating those errors, I think, is why we now tread so carefully. Raymond’s proposal makes for an interesting conundrum. The process we have put in place to prevent mistakes like the Government Center garage is the same one that may well stop us from getting rid of it.

Mr. Keane doesn’t point any fingers, so allow me. This “public vetting” process may seem democratic, but in fact, it’s anything but. There is a time and place for conversations and arguments, and a time for decisive action. What’s missing is the “decisive action” part. Our mayor doesn’t get involved until the last minute. Instead, he lets everyone fight it out. When the dust has settled, either the strongest or most patient get what they want. Instead of making the tough decisions himself, the Mayor lets popular or public opinion rule.*

Makes it easier on him, I guess.

Might I be so clever to say there are three “blocks of concrete” in Government Center?

Source: The Other Block of Concrete – By Tom Keane, The Boston Globe Magazine

(* The only time I know of that the Mayor made a decision himself was when he decided it somehow made sense to build a top-hat on the 111 Huntington Building, now known derisively as the “R2-D2” building.)

(My criticism may not be fair, since many people think the exact opposite is true – that nothing gets built unless the Mayor says it’s okay. I guess I would say that both arguments are true.)

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