On schedule despite change orders

Despite last-minute design changes backed by the Town of Arlington, Mass. Ave. reconstruction “remains generally on time, ” according to the project liaison, Nathaniel Cabral-Curtis.

Granite-edged planter in front of Giles Liquors is not among those changed recently. The flamingos are a nice touch.

A granite-edged planter in front of Giles Liquors is not among those changed this month. The flamingos are a nice touch.

The changes involve the design of the Varnum Street crosswalk and the planters in the business district. In both cases, the Town asked for modifications in response to requests from the community.

Most recently, business owners and the Capitol Square Business Association asked Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine to request a redesign of granite-edged planter boxes, including some that had already been installed in the block between Winter and Cleveland Streets.

The planters proved controversial because of their size, placement, and granite edges, which were raised several inches.

In response, the edges of 3 planters that had already been set near the Fox Library have been lowered to be flush with the sidewalk. Some others not yet built on the south side of Mass. Ave. will be moved as well as lowered.

This curb cut would be modified ubto a bump out if MassDOT grants the request the Town  Manager plans to make on Monday.

New plans now call for this curb cut in front of the Trinity Baptist Church to be modified with a bump-out later this year. (April 25 photo.)

The Varnum Street crosswalk is getting a curb bump-out on the north side, in front of the Trinity Baptist Church, to match the one planned for the southern side of the crossing.

That change was originally requested by the East Arlington Livable Streets Coalition.*

The Varnum St. crosswalk received unfortunate scrutiny this spring when a car struck and killed a local man there.

Some delays

Although the project as a whole remains on schedule, the Varnum St. change means the sidewalk on the north side of the crossing will not be completely finished until “later this summer or early fall,” according to Cabral-Curtis.

Work on the Capitol Theater block does not appear to be affected by changes now planned for 3 of the planters there.

However, there may have been some delay in finishing the Winter–Cleveland block facing Lake St., where construction was already well along when the Town, prompted by business owners, requested the change.

One of several planters with lowered edges.

One of several planters with lowered edges is in front of the Fox Library.

In a letter to the editor of the Arlington Advocate (June 11)  thanking the Town for the changes, Artbeat owner Jan Whitted referred  to a “delay” that “has been painful for the businesses on the Winter-Cleveland block,” where planters were reworked to be flush with the sidewalk after some of the concrete had been poured.

Writing on behalf of the Capital Square Business Association, Whited expressed appreciation for “the quick action by the town, the rapid redesign by DOT, and the corrections.”

Most of the remainder of the Winter–Cleveland sidewalk was poured on Friday, June 12, the day before the annual Feast of the East celebration. A short stretch of pavement was filled temporarily with asphalt.

Planters cause concern

Some new sidewalks have red decorative borders and some of those have planters that will contain shrubs and trees. In other places there are simply large unpaved rectangles that will just be planted with grass and perhaps trees.

It may seem arbitrary but there is a method to this madness.

Sidewalks that are getting the two-toned treatment seem generally to be blocks with shops that previously had a decorative brick border near to the curb. You can still see some of this (but not for long) in front of the Capitol Theater and further east on the south side of Mass. Ave.

Some of these blocks had or have patches of grass near the curb but the densest blocks only had smaller tree wells. Generally, it looks as though the tree wells have grown and been converted into planters.

The original idea was to situate planters with slightly raised beds within the red border beginning about 2 feet from the curb. These are larger than the old tree wells though of varying sizes.

Under this scheme the planters, and the decorative zone in general, would be a sort of buffer zone between pedestrians and the street.

In arlington Center, some small tree wells have raised granite borders/

In Arlington Center, some small tree wells have raised granite borders.

The use of raised granite edges to make a container for trees and shrubs has precedent in other parts of town. In the center, the tree wells have raised granite curbs. The round granite sides of planters in Arlington heights are high and thick enough to serve as benches.

In East Arlington business owners and others were concerned that the raised granite, several inches high, could be a tripping hazard. They also felt that the planters constricted the walking zone.

Shop owners in the Capitol Theater block got 3 planters on the Lake Street end of the block pushed out to the curb to make more of the sidewalk available for commerce. Some planters will be a little smaller, and the granite borders will be made flush with the sidewalk.

The granite had already been laid out for planters on the Winter–Cleveland block, but some of these were lowered last week while others remain as originally designed. The size and placement of planters on the north side of Mass. Ave. are otherwise unchanged.

Cabral-Curtis says that although some of the planters will be smaller than originally planned, “enough space remains to give the vegetation in the planters the opportunity to thrive.” The granite edging has been retained “to direct tree roots down, rather than into the sidewalk,” he says.

Passengers exiting vehicles parked in front of the shifted planters will have to manage without the paved buffer originally planned between curb and planter. On the other hand, they will not have to contend with raised planters.

Click here for recent construction news.

*Disclosure: I am a member of the advisory board for the East Arlington Livable Streets Coalition. The Word on the Street is a personal project that does not speak for anyone but me.

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