April 25, 2015
Contact: Dan Rizzo

A rebirth in Revere?

By Cyrus Moulton / The Daily Item

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REVERE — A “water square.” A pier extending from Revere Beach. A community college campus at Wonderland.

Urban planning students from the Harvard Graduate School of Design presented many varied ideas for the future redevelopment of major properties in Revere. But a few common themes emerged.

“Everybody in the community had an intense pride concerning Revere, and then Bell Circle comes up and there was just general agreement that it is a disaster,” said student Tamara Jafar, from Ann Arbor, Mich.

Students from the Harvard Graduate School of Design’s Urban Planning Core Studio II joined Revere city officials and community members Thursday night to present the results of an investigation of the redevelopment opportunities for several Revere properties. The students worked with city departments, state agencies and local residents to examine and propose improvements for sites including the New England Confectionary Company factory, Wonderland Dog Track, Suffolk Downs, Revere Beach, the Beachmont MBTA station, Wonderland Marketplace, and of course, Bell Circle.

The class partners with a different community each year for the studio, but the effort was particularly beneficial to Revere, which is kicking off a master planning effort this summer.

“This has been a great collaborative effort and we hope that this is a beginning of a great year in terms of planning for Revere,” Harvard Professor Kathryn Madden told the crowd gathered to view the students’ work.

There were many plans to choose among.

Faisal Almogren, from Saudi Arabia, and Sohael Chowfla, from India, proposed a community college campus to replace Wonderland Dog Track. Students could arrive via the T (with the pedestrian bridge to the beach extended across 1A) or at a new stop on the commuter rail. This would provide greater and faster access from the North Shore to Logan, the community college campus would ease overcrowding at Bunker Hill and Roxbury community colleges, and the site could include student housing as well as market-rate housing for those who want to be near multiple transportation lines and the beach, the students said.

Marco Gorini, of Brookline, and Cara Michelle, of Silver Springs, Md., proposed a “water square” to be developed along a rehabilitated and restored Sales Creek that flows by the Beachmont T Station. Based on a design in Seoul, South Korea, the water square is an outdoor plaza surrounding the creek bed which is terraced to accommodate temporary flooding.

“We are sure there are some measures to make sure the water is purified — not potable — but think it could be used because it’s stream water, not sewer water,” Gorini said. He and Michelle admitted they had not considered whether it would be overrun by Canada Geese, but ensured “nobody will drown.”

But their proposal also included something that several groups (individuals or pairs of students developed proposals independently) emphasized — a youth and/or community center.

“I like the Necco one with the bridge, I think that would help a lot,” said Deja Souvannasy, 16, a member of Revere Youth in Action. Souvannasy and other members of the youth group had met with the students to discuss potential community improvements. To emphasize their walkability needs, the youth tried to take the graduate students on a walk from the high school to the beach...trying to cross Revere’s most notorious traffic rotary, Bell Circle.

“This is a highway, no longer a rotary,” Stephanie Lin, of Virginia, said. “I think it’s very clear to everyone that it’s not working.”

Notably, not a single proposal kept the rotary at Bell Circle.

Rather, almost every student proposed extending the grid pattern of Beach Street and Shirley Avenue to slow down and disperse traffic while also providing a more urban feel — as the strip mall stores would each open onto the streets rather than a parking lot.

“There’s been a lot of great ideas and it’s given us a new youthful perspective of people thinking outside the box and not being afraid to be daring,” Mayor Daniel Rizzo said. “This is going to give us an awful lot to talk about over the next couple of months and several years. It’s great.”

Read the full article here.