At our first meeting with Marcos Beleche, Executive Director of Four Corners Main Streets (FCMS), we immediately felt his sense of pride for his community. Marcos came to Payette with an opportunity to improve a unique intersection along Washington Street, a main commercial corridor in Dorchester, just south of downtown Boston. The organization’s goal is to support local small businesses, from restaurants to hair salons to the first ever pop-up market for entrepreneurs. They focus on place, people and opportunity to create a safe, walkable, healthy commercial and cultural corridor as a part of the Main Streets organization.
Four Corners Village, as the project was named, became the creation of a community living room, or the Third Place. The Third Place is where people spend their time between the first place, their homes, and the second place, their work. It is a social space that differs from where people normally gather and live. It serves as a location for social interactions, building relationships and the exchange of ideas. Through placemaking, an important part of the FCMS vision, the Third Place serves a critical role in fostering a sense of community. The challenge was transforming four distinct sites, separated by a busy street and a sunken MBTA train line along the Four Corners/Geneva stop, into a revitalized Third Place.
Project goals included (1) creating a vibrant, healthy, and active zone that promotes community connections, (2) enhancing the physical appearance while creating safe, well-programmed and accessible space and (3) improving the district’s economic viability through community amenities and marketing opportunities within a more identifiable neighborhood. The sites along Washington Street strive to achieve these common goals and are identified as the Market, the Playground, and the Garden.
Currently owned by the MBTA, this large, underutilized commuter rail station parking area is only used for programming in the summer months as a pop-up market. The goal is to expand on these current programs and provide a space for more inclusive programming and uses for this lot.
This space requires a high impact, visually appealing, yet temporary design intervention. Through landscaping, temporary structures, and ample storage on site, the space can easily be transformed for outdoor gatherings like markets, health fairs and community events. Payette proposed a large, welcoming sign to indicate the entry gate of the FCMS district, and patterned crosswalks to identify safe crossings utilizing the organization’s logo with their bright, cheery colors. Planters are added to the parking area for an enhanced physical appearance and a soft boundary between the market and the MBTA passenger drop off.
A city-owned, vacant parcel across the street from existing take-out restaurants provides a unique opportunity to provide an outdoor dining area to support local eateries that currently cannot support outdoor dining due to existing site limitations.
By reclaiming this corner as a gathering place, the community has choice of dining in the shade under the trees or playing catch in the open field. Through landscaping, planters, flexible seating and storage on site, the space can be easily transformed into a destination for the community. Additionally, the quieter adjacent street has available space for food trucks, no matter the season. This allows ample opportunity for entrepreneurs to try new ideas and for existing businesses to grow and thrive.
This city-owned parcel has been identified as a potential site for mixed-use development. The goal is to provide pop-up commercial spaces at street level for use by local entrepreneurs and small businesses. Adjacent to this parcel is another small MBTA-owned parcel that has been identified for future transformation as a passive garden.
A new community building is proposed on this site, including shops and cafés on the ground floor to encourage new small business partners to open shops in the area. The second floor would house the offices and conference space for the FCMS organization. And the third floor would provide flexible open space for the community for additional programs. At the street level, the new passive garden space would be connected to the café and community building and create a safe place for gathering and socializing in the neighborhood.
Four Corners Main Streets is about People, Place and Opportunity. Their mission is guided by their principles of equity and inclusion. The Third Place, including the Market, the Playground, and the Garden welcomes all members of this diverse community. By teaming up with FCMS, Payette was able to create a few images to reflect the potential of each parcel as active and passive community zones that can be used to engage stakeholders to start the transformation.