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The Boston Globe

Opinion

PAUL MCMORROW

Adjusting Boston’s High Spine

Redevelopment of Christian Science Plaza should be replicated

The Christian Science Plaza now has a developer, and construction cranes will soon follow. Last week’s selection of Cambridge builder Carpenter & Co. as the plaza’s lead redeveloper marks a rare instance when a monumental urban renewal-style property will be dragged into the future by the High Spine, the dense building pattern that saved Boston from urban renewal. The redevelopment is a watershed moment for Boston, but it’s also likely to prove bittersweet. The city desperately needs to duplicate the type of work that will happen at the Christian Science Plaza, but it’s unlikely that will happen for some time to come.

The Christian Science Plaza distills a generation of Boston building into a 15-acre plot. It’s enormous, it’s encased in concrete, and it rose, by design, above the bones of the old, pre-war brick city. The 1960s-era plaza — a long reflecting pool, ringed by modernist office buildings — is a close cousin of the Government Center and West End urban renewal projects. These projects all tried to jump-start an economically listless city by paving under older structures in favor of sprawling concrete campuses.

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