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Colorful plaza draws pedestrians in the heart of downtown

The new plaza at the corner of Franklin and Arch streets, with an adjacent bike lane, viewed from ten floors above.
The new plaza at the corner of Franklin and Arch streets, with an adjacent bike lane, viewed from ten floors above. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)

In an effort to transform busy streets into pedestrian-friendly areas, the city celebrated the opening of Tontine Crescent plaza, a seating and gathering space in the heart of downtown Boston.

Green paint, outdoor seating with orange umbrellas, and potted plants surrounded by a bike lane delineate this special section of Franklin Street.

Community members have already made themselves comfortable in the mini-park.

Tom Hanraty could be heard singing the blues at one of the plaza’s tables.

“Don’t say I don’t love you, because I never text you back,” he sang. Every day before work, he serenades pedestrians with his harmonica in hopes of booking a gig.

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“I love to entertain people, I love to play. I play everyday,” said the 68-year-old Somerville resident. “It’s my life. It’s my passion.”

Hanraty is one of many locals who can now enjoy bustling city life from a colorful, leafy redoubt right in the middle of the Financial District, a place to chat with coworkers at lunchtime.

The Boston Transportation Department redesigned the roadway between Arch and Hawley streets to benefit all modes of travel on Franklin Street, a statement from Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s office said. The plaza’s renovation is part of the city’s “Go Boston 2030”plan, which aims to reclaim surplus roadway space for safer, more enjoyable purposes.

“Our streets and sidewalks are not just our paths to and from school or work, they are also our front stoops and our neighborhood gathering spaces,” said Chris Osgood, the mayor’s chief of streets, transportation, and sanitation.

“These projects highlight how our streets can celebrate our neighborhoods and bring our city together, and the projects we are celebrating today are just the beginning.”

 Gail Cummings, right, shared lunch with her daughter Abygail Rudder at a table in the new  plaza at the corner of Franklin and Arch streets.
Gail Cummings, right, shared lunch with her daughter Abygail Rudder at a table in the new plaza at the corner of Franklin and Arch streets.(Lane Turner/Globe Staff)

The new space reimagines an 18th century Charles Bulfinch-designed urban park that had been converted to roadway space over time to accommodate the many vehicles that pass through downtown every day.

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The plaza will stay in its temporary form for a few years, the statement said, and the city will evaluate its use and impacts.

A cyclist rode in the dedicated bike lane.
A cyclist rode in the dedicated bike lane.(Lane Turner/Globe Staff)

Katie Camero can be reached at katie.camero@globe.com.