It’s not your father’s City Hall. Renovations to the main lobby at Boston City Hall have been completed after several months of work, creating what officials say is a more pleasant space.
Work on the third-floor mezzanine, the main entrance from the plaza, was initiated by Walsh to “make City services more accessible, welcoming and efficient,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s office said in a statement.
“We’re dedicated to making Boston City Hall a positive, welcoming experience for all residents, and this renovation is another leap forward,” Walsh said in a statement. “City Hall is a historic building that belongs to everyone, and I’m pleased that our renovations improve experiences for all visitors.”
In addition to the coffee shop and gallery already in place, the completed renovations include a new welcome desk, a large video board streaming city news and updates, and self-service touchscreen kiosks that can assist users with city information and services in six languages.
Video boards also display Boston’s daily CityScore, which measures “how the city is performing on daily, basic city services,” Boston chief of operations Patrick Brophy said during a tour of the building.
Renovations also include a new seating area and lighting replacements throughout the lobby with brighter and more sustainable LED fixtures that should last 20 years.
“It costs a lot of money to light this building, so with the installation of new lighting, we’re saving money and we’re saving energy and we’re saving labor costs,” Brophy said.
And there’s a bonus: The new lighting can also change color to coordinate with the displays installed last year on the building’s exterior.
Security equipment and cameras have also been repositioned, allowing for added safety and a better flow through the lobby. Both employees and visitors previously had to wait in line for metal detectors to enter City Hall, but now employees can quickly scan in through gates while visitors are directed through a single metal detector.
“It’s meant to make it more welcoming; it’s meant to make it easier so that the line isn’t queuing up and people get frustrated,” Brophy said.
“I love it. I’ve been scanning all day,” a city employee remarked. “Makes my life so much better.”
New murals were installed in the lobby in an attempt to relieve the “dreary” atmosphere the concrete building was known for, according to Brophy.
The lobby art, as well as newly painted walls and rotating murals on the seventh, eighth, and ninth floors, add a “pop of color” to previously drab space. Brophy said the effect has been to enliven a previously dark and underutilized area.
“We’re now watching people have meetings here before their meetings in City Hall. We’re watching people come in and eat their lunch here, we’re watching people have team meetings down here, so it just creates an opportunity for people to kind of congregate,” he said. “Without even being prompted, people are excited about it.”
The lobby project, which cost the city an estimated $2.1 million, is another in a series of updates the mayor’s office has made to the building. The design of the 49-year-old building, while winning some praise, has also been derided. Walsh has worked to revitalize the austere Brutalist structure and the often-empty plaza surrounding it.
With the lobby makeover now complete, Brophy said Walsh’s next steps could include moving some “transactional” city services from scattered locations around the building to a more accessible area on the second floor. Brophy also said the decades-old building is due for updates in its heating and air conditioning systems in the future.
“This is not a building that was supposed to stay the way that it was built from Day One. It was always meant to evolve,” Brophy said.
Along with the mezzanine renovation, the Boston Seasons summer event series and picnic area were open Wednesday on the plaza just outside. Those followed the Boston Winter market and ice skating rink featured last winter.Ben Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.