A Flxible tour bus in front of Boston’s Verb Hotel tells you something different is going on with this parcel’s transformation.
“What does a big red bus have to do with adaptive reuse?”
That is how I open my Arizona Attorney column for the October issue (I’ll share the whole thing when it’s online). The bus comment relates to a recently refurbished Boston, Mass., hotel. The larger issue poked at the question of how laws and lawyers can work to make urban spaces more vibrant and dynamic.
One way to achieve adaptive reuse is to alter your laws and your code to encourage (or at least not disincentivize) it. That is something Phoenix has been at work on. You can see a brochure about the city’s own plan here.
Meantime, in Boston, its namesake university has a fascinating piece of journalism on its site that describes the transformation of a main street into what it is today. Once the site of scores of auto dealers and auto-accessories shops, it has become a boulevard welcoming to cars but also to cyclists, pedestrians, and the City’s iconic T subway.
On the site, writer Patrick L. Kennedy explores that street’s transformation. (The site itself is a marvel; click through, at least, to view the brief videos and the sliding-bar effect that lets you view the old and new streetscapes right next to each other.)
One of the fascinating old structures that might have met the wrecking ball in another city is seen below. The building once held an automobile showroom. Now, the BU School of Theatre makes its home there, and it left intact much of the impressive artifacts—one of which are gargoyle-like figures high on the walls that honor mechanics rather than supernatural beings.
Boston University School of Theatre building, once an auto-dealership.
Yes, that is a mechanic gargoyle in the Stone Gallery. It and many others line the high ceiling in a space now used for education.
In that magazine column, I was able to share only one image (that very cool decades-old Flxible tour bus, also pictured above). So I thought it would be terrific to share more images here from the Boston adventure. Here are a few more.
Currently, Phoenix seeks to emulate the success of places like Boston that have installed “parklets”—repurposed parking spaces that now accommodate non-car uses. Dozens of cities have already discovered that altering their laws to permit these spaces creates a more vibrant streetscape, which benefits the businesses nearby and adds to residents’ value.
This is just one example of many that businesses have taken when they install public parklets in Boston.
Boston parklets, branded
A parklet reminder that the space has no predefined use.
The somewhat odd debate is occurring in Phoenix right now as to whether the city should have both public and private parklets. As seen in the images below, Boston’s are public—as are the parklets of 99 percent of the cities out there that have adopted this unique tool. (Is it an Arizona thing to imagine that higher benefits flow from passing public amenities on to the private sector? Hmm.)
In case there was any doubt, signage makes clear that all parklets are public (and not just for a business’s customers).
Also occupying former car space are wildly successful bike-share stations. They can be found at dozens of places around the city, which makes hopping on—and then off—an easy task.
Boston bike-share occupies space formerly used for cars.
Of course, adaptive reuse means businesses often live alongside—or above—residential spaces. This image shows multiple floors of retail and commercial (including below-grade) with residences above.
Business and residential together (and yes, that is Insomnia Cookies in the foreground).
And here is another former auto dealer that now markets bagels and other food through its massive plate-glass windows.
Boston adaptive use streetscape
Finally, I couldn’t help but notice a former incinerator chute—not removed but left to evoke the past—in a university dorm.
Boston: The impulse to retain the past burns bright. An incinerator chute in a Boston University dorm.
Incinerator label closeup
Do you agree there is value in keeping and adapting the past? If you’re a lawyer involved in that effort, write to me at email@example.com.
Tomorrow, I’ll share another great adaptive reuse—here in Arizona, and with another legal angle.