BRA board approves Ave. of Arts guidelines

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) during its Oct. 15 meeting approved the Avenue of the Arts guidelines, according to spokesperson Nick Martin.

The Avenue of the Arts is the portion of Huntington Avenue located between Massachusetts Avenue and Longwood Avenue. The area received its name because it is home to many institutions, including Boston Symphony Orchestra, Museum of Fine Arts, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Northeastern University, Wentworth Institute of Technology and others.

The guidelines are intended to create more coherence and continuity for the Avenue of the Arts, but they are not mandatory requirements. The study area previously had not had any sort of design guidelines in place.

The guidelines examine existing street conditions and make suggestions for sidewalk and traffic lane widths in addition to “amenity zones” for trees and street lights and “cafe zones,” where appropriate.

They encourage new and expressive architecture and recommend the regularization of a “street wall” in order to provide a more consistent setting for iconic buildings to read against.

Meetings as part of a study of the area had been held by the BRA over the past year to focus on conditions, such as landscape, streetscape, mobility and public uses.

Recommendations from the guidelines about trees are that canopy trees along Huntington Avenue should be a single species, large, urban-hardy and salt-tolerant, with different species of distinct trees may be used on cross streets. Site furnishings are recommended to be contemporary with clean lines and made from high-quality materials, such as wood, metal or stone.

The study also identified and encouraged “welcome mats,” which are public spaces that institutions can use to create open, accessible and usable gathering areas. Examples of spaces like that that already exist are Northeastern University’s Krentzman Quad and the plaza in front of Wentworth’s Treehouse. The guidelines state that those spaces should be uniquely used by each institution and the effect will be to create a “cadence of activity nodes” down the length of the Avenue.

Northeastern, Wentworth and the New England Conservatory have recently undertaken planning and permitting processes and will add approximately 1.7 million square feet of new space directly along the Avenue. The guidelines derived from a study of the area provide recommendations for buildings and open spaces as they go through the zoning review process.

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