Monday, March 23, 2009

Downtown's dark heart

Boston's shopping district loses its charm at night, becoming a lonely, desolate place apart

While many streets in famously sleepy Boston can be quiet at night, the feeling here is different.
The lack of all but commercial traffic makes it seem a district apart from the rest of downtown - so quiet that the click of heels echo from a block away and you can hear the horns honking on Tremont Street.

Downtown Crossing is one of the country's last remaining pedestrian malls, a vestige of the 1970s that was intended to enliven American downtowns by blocking them off from traffic but instead made many of them seem eerie and forlorn, particularly at night.
At 11:30 p.m., surveying the stillness outside his condo on Washington Street, with Ogan and his pit bull, Twister, Kevin Barron offered an idea, unbidden.

"We need to open it up to traffic," said Barron, who moved to the street in 2001. "We are so sick of this. It's plagued by loiterers at day and a ghost town at night."

Ogan nodded. "From a purely residential convenience standpoint, it would be helpful," he said. "Newbury Street works great."