The Arts Beat: Can Dog Biscotti Save Downtown Crossing?

WE USED TO CALL IT Downtown Crossing; now it’s just the Hole in the Ground, a Filene’s-shaped chasm threatening to swallow the once-vibrant retail district. While the nonprofit Downtown Crossing Partnership can’t do anything about the hole — that’s the mayor’s problem — its efforts to fill the streets with bustle are more important than ever.
Since May, the DCP has hosted weekly Art Fridays events that draw artisans hawking wares such as jewelry, purses, and something called “dog biscotti.” It can sound underwhelming, but to get hung up on its modest scale is to miss the real goal, says DCP president Rosemarie Sansone. “There are 230,000 people who travel through Downtown Crossing every day. This is about getting them to linger in an atmosphere that feels pleasant and entertaining and safe.”
And here’s the thing: It’s working. On a recent Friday, a small crowd of office workers listened to a guitarist onstage; others slowly wound their way among the crafts booths. They somehow made the area feel a bit more alive, a bit more viable. “Twenty-five years ago, people said the theaters would never be renovated, and now we have the return of the Theater District,” says Sansone, who plans to expand Art Fridays next spring. “We’re not going to wait 25 years to fix the hole in the ground.”