Kennedy Plaza reopened this morning. Bus passengers are waiting in the newly sanitized bus hub. The view above shows the blank sterility achieved by its redesign. Wind-swept vastnesses of unused space greet us now, no longer the elegant Art Nouveau waiting kiosks that used to march gently up the center of the plaza from the bus terminal installed in 2002. The photo at top left shows the utilitarian quality of the new waiting kiosks. Also, at this end of the plaza the ice-melt system under the pavement was removed to facilitate the introduction of more trees – a trade-off that might not be widely appreciated, especially in winter, however much one loves trees.
Several questions remain. Why was demolition begun before voters were given the chance to approve the referendum that will finance new bus hubs, and whose existence will affect the requirements of the Kennedy Plaza bus hub? Why build a new bus hub at the Amtrak station when a bus loop between it and the plaza would accomplish the same purpose at a fraction of a fraction of the cost? Why change the aesthethics of the plaza to a utilitarian cast even as a more traditional plan, shown at left, in keeping with the existing plaza features, was used to sell the public on the need for a civic square? Why was a new civic square needed with Burnside Park across the street already functioning as a civic plaza?
Tara Granahan, filling in for Buddy Cianci on WPRO, wondered at Mayor Elorza declaring, at the opening ceremony, that Kennedy Plaza was now the new “gathering spot” for downtown. She said that this was a stretch, that “putting lipstick on a pig” would not turn the plaza into a happenin’ place. But, if anything, they scraped much of the old makeup off what had been among the nicest bus hubs on the East Coast, if not the world. She clearly has no idea, and pretty much admitted it, what Kennedy Plaza is like. She planned to try it out with her friends, but speculated that she’d be the only one at that party. Callers debated whether the plaza was safe. It always was, it seemed to me as a frequent user. I sure can’t see the middle class meeting there to play chess though. People who are turned off by people with a scruffy coat will find that scruffy coats still abound. All the city and state have done is to squander $2.4 million. But the plaza’s not yet complete, officials insist. No doubt they have plans to make it even worse.