Eyes On the Street: Chinatown’s New Phillips Square Plaza

The pop-up plaza at Phillips Square in Chinatown is nearly complete as of Wednesday, August 29, 2019.
The pop-up plaza at Phillips Square in Chinatown is nearly complete as of Wednesday, August 29, 2019.

A little-used turning lane on Harrison Street in Chinatown is on the verge of being reclaimed as public space as the city puts the finishing touches on a new plaza in Phillips Square.

The City of Boston has been planning public space improvements for Phillips Square – located on Harrison Street between Essex and Beach Streets – since 2017.

Original plans called for the plaza to extend all the way to Beach Street, and for a parking-protected bike lane on the west side of Harrison Avenue, a “better bike corridor” identified in the GoBoston 2030 plan.

The current project only extends halfway down the block, from Essex Street to the Oxford Place alley. Jacob Wessel, Public Realm Director for Boston’s Office of the Chief of Streets, says that additional improvements on the rest of the block may be added “after examining how the plaza works operationally and working with our community partners.”

A 2017 design for Phillips Square included plaza elements extending to Beach Street and a protected bike lane for the western side of Harrison Avenue, part of a "better bike corridor" identified in the GoBoston 2030 plan. Courtesy of the City of Boston.
A 2017 design for Phillips Square included plaza improvements extending to Beach Street and a protected bike lane for the western side of Harrison Avenue, part of a “better bike corridor” identified in the GoBoston 2030 plan. Courtesy of the City of Boston.

Wessel said that, in addition to removing the construction fencing and the storage container visible in the photo above, there’s still one more element to the plaza that remains to be installed. Two guardian lion statues that had been removed from the neighborhood during the Big Dig will find a home in the new plaza, returning to the neighborhood after a decade-long absence.

The square was previously known as a place where unlicensed ghost hunters could illegally park their hearses: the adjacent Kaze Shabu Shabu restaurant was transformed into the Ghostbusters’ headquarters during the movie’s Boston production.

 

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