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.
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.”