For at least a day this summer, the car will not be king on three busy thoroughfares in Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, and Dorchester as part of Boston’s new “Open Streets” initiative, Mayor Michelle Wu said Thursday.
For stretches as long as two miles, the streets will be closed to vehicle traffic from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and turned over to parades, vendors, and live music in an effort to bring neighborhoods together and boost local businesses.
“Our young people and their families deserve to have that carefree sense of complete ownership of public space,” Wu said at a news conference outside the Mary E Curley School in Jamaica Plain. “I have two kids. They’re very active, and as much as I tell them to stay in one place, I turn around and they’re gone the next second. And being near traffic is incredibly stressful as a parent and as a family.”
Centre Street will be closed from Jackson Square to the intersection with South Street on July 10. Blue Hill Avenue will be closed from the intersection with Dudley Street to the intersection with Warren Avenue on Aug. 6, and two miles of Dorchester Avenue, from the intersection with Freeport Street to Gallivan Boulevard, will be closed Sept. 24.
Wu also announced a similar initiative, dubbed “Copley Connect,” that will close Dartmouth Street to cars between Boylston Street and St. James Avenue from June 7 to June 17. During the closure, the Boston Public Library will hold performances and activities for children.
The program, which is modeled on other open street initiatives, can “help us imagine different futures. A future where streets serve their essential transportation functions but also bring more kinds of connectivity than just moving cars from A to B,” said Boston’s chief of streets, Jascha Franklin-Hodge.
Franklin-Hodge added that the city has done “extensive” traffic management to prepare for the events.
“We do close streets on a pretty regular basis in Boston,” he said, comparing the upcoming events to road races and parades. “The key is just communicating with people.”
City officials said the initiative will advance its racial equity goals. Shana Bryant Consulting, a Roxbury business owned by a Black woman, will organize the events that will take place during the closures. Bryant promised Open Streets would be an “event to remember.”
The city also chose streets that run through neighborhoods with significant populations of color.
“Not every resident in Dorchester can come down to Newbury to enjoy the open street,” said Annie Le, board president of Boston Little Saigon Cultural District, referencing a similar program that closes Newbury Street to traffic.
Community leaders said they hope the street events will encourage people to explore parts of the city they haven’t before and bring much-needed exposure and revenue to the businesses there.
“This is about community; this is about bridging the gap,” said Warren Williams, executive director of Three Squares Main Street JP.
City officials said they hope to expand the initiative if it goes well.
As Wu spoke, a school bus full of elementary school students passed by. Recognizing the mayor, the children called out and waved through the windows.
“This is really the reason why we’re doing it,” she said with a smile.
Alexander Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AlMThompson