Magazine
    Next Score View the next score

    Public policy / government

    50 years later, City Hall Plaza is cool

    With the opening of Boston Winter, the city may finally have figured out how to make the plaza a year-round attraction.

    Boston, MA - December 21, 2016: Skaters fill the ice at "Boston Winter presented by Berkshire Bank" at City Hall Plaza in Boston, MA on December 21, 2016. The venue includes a 11,000-square-foot Skating Path and The Chocolate Story, and a 20-foot tall pedal-powered holiday tree that lets up to four people work together to "pedal" the lights up to the very top. (Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe) Section: Metro reporter:
    Craig F. Walker/Globe staff

    From its inception five decades ago, Boston’s City Hall Plaza was intended to be a hub of activity, with restaurants and areas to congregate. But that never came to be, leaving the sea of red brick in the heart of the city open to endless criticism and mockery. Along with City Hall itself, the plaza was voted into the Project for Public Spaces’ hall of shame for being “bleak, expansive, and shapeless.” Past attempts at transforming the plaza into a year-round attraction didn’t stick, but with the opening of Boston Winter in early December, the city may finally have figured it out.

    In its first month of operation, the attraction drew 300,000 visitors to its holiday shopping village, ice skating path, and beer garden, says Amy Latimer, president of TD Garden, a subsidiary of Delaware North Cos., which was awarded a three-year contract to manage seasonal activities on the plaza. Another 20,000 made use of the skating rink in January and February after the shopping village closed. “What we realized is there was an opportunity for this to become a tradition and something that Bostonians look forward to every year,” Latimer says. “It exceeded my expectations in the way it was received.’’

    It was Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s push to revitalize the plaza that led to the partnership. In its bid, Delaware North said it was willing to invest upward of $15 million in improvements and attractions.

    Advertisement

    For summer and fall, when the plaza already hosts several events and festivals, Latimer says the company will simply install much-needed seating and a community stage for local performers. But Latimer’s focus is already on making the next Boston Winter bigger (more vendors) and better (improved rink installation). And it might have a longer run. “This year I’m hoping we can open it a little sooner,” she says. “Black Friday, that’s something we thought to do.”

    MORE PHOTOGRAPHS:

    Boston, MA - December 21, 2016: Brandon Comeau (cq) , 10, of Rockland, pedals a stationary bike to light a Christmas tree at "Boston Winter presented by Berkshire Bank" at City Hall Plaza in Boston, MA on December 21, 2016. The venue includes a 11,000-square-foot Skating Path and The Chocolate Story, and a 20-foot tall pedal-powered holiday tree that lets up to four people work together to "pedal" the lights up to the very top. (Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe) Section: Metro reporter:
    Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/File
    Brandon Comeau of Rockland pedals a stationary bike to light a Christmas tree at Boston Winter at City Hall Plaza in December.

    Boston, MA - December 21, 2016: Visitor pass the "chalets" as the enter "Boston Winter presented by Berkshire Bank" at City Hall Plaza in Boston, MA on December 21, 2016. The venue includes a 11,000-square-foot Skating Path and The Chocolate Story, and a 20-foot tall pedal-powered holiday tree that lets up to four people work together to "pedal" the lights up to the very top. (Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe) Section: Metro reporter:
    Craig F. Walker/Globe staff/File
    Visitor pass the "chalets" as the enter Boston Winter.

    Katheleen Conti is a Globe staff writer. Send comments to magazine@globe.com. Follow us on Twitter @BostonGlobeMag.