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Group offers cool ideas for a hotter Boston in coming decades

A rendering of Ruggles Street in Lower Roxbury shows design elements that would provide some relief from summer heat. Arrowstreet

It’s going to get a lot hotter around here.

With global temperatures expected to rise over the coming decades, Greater Boston by 2070 could have 90 or more days a year when the thermometer hits 90 degrees. That compares with 14 days this year. And amid the city’s asphalt and concrete, those temperatures will feel even warmer.

That has planners and architects looking for ways to cool things down a little.

The local chapter of the Urban Land Institute — a real estate trade group — is releasing a report Tuesday that looks at how Boston might deal with that level of heat. It met with dozens of experts in development, planning, architecture, and sustainability to develop ways to cool some of the city’s hottest neighborhoods.


Their ideas range from small-scale improvements such as painting rooftops white in East Boston to bigger plans like turning the area beneath the McGrath Highway overpass in Somerville into a walking path and space for community events. They envision redeveloping some huge asphalt parking lots — like the one at the Chelsea Market Basket — into housing and green space, and propose a vast, colorful, canopy to shade the busy bus terminal in Dudley Square.

There’s no one solution, the report’s authors say, but rather lots of small and creative steps worth exploring.

“We need to think different, act now, and develop an all-inclusive vision for the future that focuses on understanding the earth’s ecology within the built environment,” said Arlen Stawasz, a resiliency strategist at architecture firm Perkins + Will. “Our buildings and infrastructure are currently not designed to withstand extreme heat conditions, and this will have a major impact on our own health and wellness.”

For now, the report is just a conversation-starter, like a 2014 institute report called “Living With Water” that took a similar approach to adapting Boston to rising sea levels. That report envisioned a network of canals replacing the streets of the Back Bay.


The conversation on mitigating hotter temperatures will begin at a Tuesday morning event to unveil the report. Officials from Boston, Chelsea, and Somerville are expected to talk about how their cities might better cope with heat in coming years.

“We believe this report will help policy makers and the real estate community acknowledge the consequences of extreme heat, and seek forward-looking solutions,” said institute executive director Michelle Landers.

Tim Logan can be reached at tim.logan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.