Reviving Davis Square – a letter to the editor and news update

To the editor,

Davis Square maintenance has long been ignored by the city, and the planners now want to redo Holland and College and at the same time create more bike and bus lanes. The local business owners are disturbed by these plans as are the local residents.

Please find following a short article from the founders of DavisNOW.org on how Davis Square could be reformatted to improve the intersection and make Elm a pedestrian plaza. The diagrams were designed by Chris Iwerks and have also been provided to the ward councilor and the city planning staff. We are also working with the local business group for Davis.
Please feel free to use the diagrams, with credits to Chris Iwerks, as well as the following copy as you see fit.

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Reviving Davis Square

One bright spot over the past twelve months of COVID-19 has been the expansion of outdoor dining. It has made Davis Square a better place and kept some of our businesses alive. This success has shown that traffic does calm, and pedestrian safety is improved when outdoor space is prioritized for people.

We now have an opportunity to make some dramatic changes based on what we learned last year, and from the experiences of other cities and towns with pedestrian streets (Boston, Salem, and Newburyport for instance). Specifically, if we rearrange the traffic patterns in the square we can easily envision Elm being converted into a pedestrian street for two blocks between Day and Cutter. Closing Elm Street to through traffic has the knock-on effect of making the Davis Square intersection much simpler to resolve – providing a level of clarity that has eluded the last 10 years of neighborhood planning for the square. These two moves – pedestrianizing Elm and a simpler intersection – have the ability to serve as a base plan for growing the square over time and informing future discussions about parking options, servicing approaches, building renovations and real estate developments.

Where such steps have been undertaken in other places the effects have been positive – businesses thrive, safety improves, and people are more attracted. This is something that can easily be done here. It can be set up in a test run using temporary barriers and, when the drainage/water/ sewer infrastructure work is completed under Elm, made permanent.

The past year has proven that Elm works as a pedestrian street and we should build on that success to create a more people-friendly future.


Alan Bingham

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