Block by block, Back Bay begins to recover
With a heavy police presence and an onslaught of media, the Back Bay streets around the Marathon bombing sites began coming back to life Wednesday.
On Boston Common and in the Public Garden, tourists and locals participated in the usual rites of spring: taking Swan Boat rides, throwing Frisbees, and laying on blankets.
At the corner of Boylston and Berkeley streets, security officers stood guard as customers lined up for their daily coffee at Starbucks, which had closed 34 Boston-area stores after the explosions and kept one — near the blast sites — shuttered Wednesday.
Nearby, the Rattlesnake Bar & Grill opened for the first time since police evacuated customers Monday, leaving behind plates of half-eaten food and unpaid bills. Patrons sat at the bar on Wednesday afternoon, their eyes darting between cellphones and television screens blaring news updates about the investigation into the bombings.
“It’s busier than usual,” said Tony Castagnozzi, one of the owners of the restaurant, noting that many marathoners stayed in town a couple of extra days. “Everybody wants the news on to keep up with what’s going on.”
The active crime scene in the Back Bay shrunk from 17 blocks on Monday to 12 blocks Tuesday and got even smaller Wednesday with the reopening of Belvidere, Dalton, and Hereford streets, along with several others, according to the Boston Police Department.
The easing of restrictions allowed some businesses and residents to try to resume their regular routines, but disruptions persisted throughout the neighborhood. The Lenox and Charlesmark hotels remained closed, and several companies said they don’t expect access to buildings that are part of the investigation zone until Monday.
“We’re losing business. It’s difficult,” said Mark Hagopian, operating partner at the Charlesmark Hotel. “We’re trying to get in touch with people and accommodate them at our other property or other hotels in Boston. We’re doing the best we can.”
Across the street at the Mandarin Oriental, residents and guests with existing reservations were permitted inside, but the hotel’s restaurants and spa were not open.
Paulo Cunha Alves, the consul general of Portugal in Boston, said he was unsure when his staff could return to their offices at One Exeter Plaza. Until then, consulate employees are working from home, taking vacations, and — like many others — waiting to return to a sense of normalcy.
“We are safe, we are alive . . . We just have to wait — us and many other companies,” Cunha Alves said.
At the Shops at Prudential Center, all but four of about 75 restaurants and stores were back in business.
Around the corner on Newbury Street, thick crowds of shoppers replaced swarms of police officers, fire officials, and investigators who had occupied the retail district since Monday. Nearly every merchant was open, although many had security guards posted out front.
“I would say it’s a very normal Wednesday right now,” said Derek Flodin, assistant general manager at Stephanie’s on Newbury Street, which reopened on Wednesday to a steady flow of traffic and a bustling lunch crowd on the outdoor patio.
A heavily armed guard stood outside the Taj hotel for a second straight day, while a pair of officers kept watch over the busy patio outside Starbucks on Newbury Street.
“We are incredibly saddened by the events there, and the safety of everyone is a priority for us,” said Jaime Riley, a spokeswoman for the Seattle-based coffee chain.
The Starbucks at 755 Boylston St., adjacent to the scene of the second bomb explosion, suffered structural damage in the front of the shop, including shattered windows.
“Thankfully, everyone in the store is safe and accounted for,” Riley said.
She added that Starbucks will continue to compensate the employees for the hours they would have normally been scheduled to work while the store is closed.
At Berkeley and Boylston streets, Pam Logan and Priscilla Brown tried to put the bombings out of their minds while on break from their jobs at Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. They said the area had started to get back to its typical rhythms, even as police and reporters from around the world continued to pulse through the streets.
“It feels a little less like a memorial today,” Logan said. “On Tuesday, there were a lot more marathoners on the streets with their jackets on. It seems more normal today.”
But reminders of Monday’s event remained. Well-wishers posted signs on barricades and brick walls to express sympathy for the victims and their families, and encourage citygoers to bounce back. Many people congregated along the barricades to snap photos of police and the empty city blocks around the explosions.
Nearby, a pair of Buddhist monks spent much of the afternoon praying at a spot where people had left a large pile of flowers. TV reporters used the surreal scene as a backdrop for their live shots, with the staging for the Marathon’s finish line looming in the distance.
One young boy rode toward the barricades on his bicycle, singing aloud as he watched the armed guards and TV trucks.
“There’s a crime scene,” he said to no one in particular. “No one knows what’s going to happen. A bomb went off.”