Boston’s historic downtown made a big impression on Irish tourists Mike and Brenda O’Brien.
“Our first trip to your lovely city was a revelation to us. The clean & tidy city is so easy to navigate (after a couple of days) and the transportation system is as good as any we have used. The people are friendly and welcoming,” the couple wrote in a letter to the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District, singling out the organization’s paid “ambassadors” as being particularly friendly and helpful.
Rosemarie E. Sansone, president of the private nonprofit Downtown Boston BID, acknowledged that the Downtown rarelyï»¿ï»¿ received such accolades in recent years. “It was always tired, beleaguered, down-trodden,” she said. “But now there’s great momentum. We want people to know that this place is coming back.”
The area’s momentum has been buildingf or months amid signs of an economic recovery and efforts among developers and city-based institutions to revitaliz eneighborhoods surrounding the city’s historic core, particularly the jumbled and more-shabby-than-chic shopping district known as Downtown Crossing.ï»¿
The stalled redevelopment of the former Filene’s building has for years been emblematic of the area’s inability to turn the corner. Tourism officials, local business owners and the city all felt the impact since the project froze in late 2008.
Two years ago Emily Curran, executive director of the Old South Meeting House at 310 Washington St., was one of the local tourism officials who signed a lcttcr petitioning the city to do something — anything — to address the “crater,” as the development site was known. Those efforts finally paid dividends this year when the project’s majority ownership transferred to Millennium Partners of New York. Just this week the dcveloper received a green light from the Boslon Redevelopment Authority to build a new 625-foot tower.
More important than such symbolism, however, is the work being done to bring a new vitality to the area, particularly bythe Downtown Boston BlD, officials said.
“There’s such a strong group of people down in this area who are working together for all these goals: to make this area vital and welcoming. And thcir improvements have been noticed,” said Suzanne Taylor, executive director of the Freedom Trail Foundation. “It’s really revitalizedthe area.”
The Downtown 80ston BID, the firstbusiness improvement district in the city, started providing services in May 2011. The organization’s services include power-washing the sidewalks, removing graffiti and stickers, picking up trash and cleaning trash cans, as well as helping locals and visitors navigate the area and planning events. It’s responsibilities run geographically from Downtown Crossing to the city’s Ladder, Theater and Financial districts.
Since it started, its ambassadors, who work from 7 a.m. to 6 a.m. seven days aweek, have picked up 70 tons of trash and removed more than 4,000 stickers and graffiti tags, said Sansone; adding that since the organization’s launch, more than 40 new retail businesses have opened in the area and foot traffic has spiked more than 10 percent to around 250,000 daily visitors.ï»¿