This past Sunday, I went to brunch at Cafe Fleuri in the Langham Hotel. Just across the street, two tourists were puzzling over a map. I stopped and offered to help. They pointed to the escalators behind them, leading to something underneath the Norman B. Leventhal Park, a 1.7 acre oasis in Boston's Financial District. "We can't figure out which subway station this is," one of them explained. I straightened them out. "It's the pedestrial entrance to the garage underneath the park. It goes down seven levels." They blinked. I'm not sure they believed me.
For more than 30 years, one of the ugliest buildings in North America stood on this site. It was a four-story, city-owned garage; an eyesore of monumental proportions endured only because it offered relatively cheap parking in the Financial District. It made a mockery of the Beaux Arts Federal Reserve Bank across from it (now the aforementioned Langham Hotel) as well as the art deco New England Telephone Building. In the 1980s, a group of area businessmen got together and formed Friends of Post Office Square. The garage was torn down in 1988. Four years and $80 million (all privately funded) later, what you see now opened for the public enjoyment.
Designed by Craig Halvorson of the Halvorson Partnership, the park may well be the most popular spot in Boston for office workers. The intelligence behind the design, plantings choice, and maintence zeal all show. It has a fountain where you can get your feet wet, lots of places to sit, a cafe, ample shade, and terrific views. It is, in short, inviting (and everything that the Rose Kennedy Greenway a few blocks away is not).
If you are touring Boston, it's a place you have to go see, if for not other reason than you will then go back home and wonder why no one thought of doing this in your home city.
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