Light shines on underpass makeover

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has tapped a pair of faculty members in Northeastern’s School of Architecture to help revitalize a rundown parcel of land under Interstate 93 that connects South Boston and the South End. The project’s goal is to make the area a hub for transportation in and around the city.

Landing Studio—the design firm founded by assistant professor Daniel Adams and his partner Marie Law Adams, a lecturer—will be working on the MassDOT-led I-93 Under-Story project over the next year.

At a kickoff event earlier this month, a temporary light installation designed by the firm was unveiled, depicting various images of transportation modes involved in the project. Going forward, the pair will help determine the best lighting for the space and will work on designing ways to incorporate color, other lighting, and art installations in the area.

The goal is to create a ”mobility hub” on eight acres of land near Albany Street and I-93 Frontage Road that will offer the travelling public improved access to parking lots, bicycle storage, bike paths, pedestrian walkways, and the MBTA Red and Silver lines.

“This is a large scale industrial landscape we are trying to re-introduce to the community,” Daniel Adams said. “It’s really a great spot to see how all these networks of transportation come together to serve the city.”

Adams said MassDOT approached Landing Studio about working on this project after it saw what the firm did at the Rock Chapel Marine in Chelsea, where the firm blended development and industry in an urban setting.

“It is a very dramatic landscape,” Adams said. “Its principal role will be connection, but the message is also to return it to something that is exciting and inviting.”

This project originated from discussions between state transportation officials, elected officials, and community members about how to transform the underutilized space, according to MassDOT real estate project manager Robin Blatt-Eisengart, DMSB’04 and SSH’12.

“When we started looking at this area, it was really dark and dreary and a psychological barrier between the South End and South Boston,” explained Blatt-Eisengart, who has worked on the project for the past two years. “But the more we looked at it, we saw it could be a connection between the two areas because it’s where neighborhoods and local and state roads come together.”

About 235 parking spots were added to the area as part of the project’s first phase. Phase two is expected to be completed by January 2015. It will include the construction of an additional 197 parking spaces with an electric car charging area and bicycle storage, as well as open space that doubles as a stormwater runoff treatment landscape, and an extension of the Boston Harborwalk. Revenue from these new parking spots will pay for the project.

Blatt-Eisengart, who worked on co-op at MassDOT, said his experiential learning opportunity taught him to address policy challenges through land-use solutions, which is what the I-93 Under-Story project accomplishes. “We are making an investment in transportation infrastructure to solve a number of different policy challenges, such as safety,” he noted.