Downtown Looking Up

Boston is putting millions into Downtown Crossing on a simple bet: that small tweaks can make a big difference.

Folks walking around Downtown Crossing may have noticed some subtle changes lately: a new bench here, more trash cans there, and a growing sense that the area wasn’t hit by the blitz. While big new developments have certainly driven the neighborhood’s reemergence, the little things have gone a long way, too. “It actually makes the area feel safer, it makes the area feel cleaner, and it makes the area feel like it’s a very busy downtown area,” says Randi Lathrop, of the city’s Boston Redevelopment Authority.

To that end, the city has committed $3.2 million for infrastructure improvements to the neighborhood, with $1.1 million already spent. The Downtown Boston Business Improvement District (BID), an organization composed of area businesses, has spent another $450,000. Then there’s the $8.6 million that Millennium Partners—which is set to erect a new tower in the Filene’s hole and which owns another nearby building—has pledged to spend over the next few years on sidewalks, streetlights, traffic lights, landscaping, and a new MBTA station entrance, among other things. Here are some of the little things the city and the Downtown Boston BID are already putting big money into.

downtown crossingIllustration by Infomen


1. Adding Big Belly trash cans: $450,000

2. Pruning trees: $11,000

3. Cleaning, upgrading, and replacing streetlights on Washington Street and in the Ladder District: $40,000

4. Installing special “Boston” bike racks: $1,500


5. Fixing and repairing sidewalks: $1 million

6. Repaving streets: $450,000

7. Redesigning the traffic island at Kingston and Bedford streets: $450,000

8. Installing LED-illuminated street signs at about a dozen intersections: $75,000

9. Creating guidelines for signage to help pedestrians navigate the area (a joint project with the BID): $50,000


10. Adding planters: $201,000

11. Purchasing and putting up seasonal decorations: $103,000

12. Creating a movable performance stage: $62,000

13. Providing tables and chairs for outdoor seating: $17,000

14. Installing rolling bollards to demarcate the pedestrian zone: $13,500

15. Creating guidelines for signage to help pedestrians navigate the area (a joint project with the city): $50,000