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Keller @ Large: How To Improve City Hall Plaza

BOSTON (CBS) - So Boston Mayor Walsh is asking for suggestions on how to improve one of the city's biggest chronic eyesores, City Hall Plaza?

Be careful what you wish for mayor.

Any reasonable response would start with tearing down City Hall itself, a hideous, drafty, leaky, hard-to-navigate, and widely despised tomb. There are a handful of people who still defend it, but the rest of us ask them with all due respect: what are you looking at?

But let's focus on the request at hand, in the mayor's words, "re-imagining" the plaza and "cultivating…vibrancy."

To me, a vibrant urban setting means people, eating, shopping, hanging out, and watching each other do all of the above. City Hall Plaza right now is a people-repellant, a vast expanse of brick that is shade-free in summer and ice-covered in winter.

Not to mention the wind, which keeps the trash from disgusted pedestrians moving along smartly.

So keep the built-in stage off to the side of City Hall for special events, but tear up the rest of the plaza and line it with stalls like any great urban marketplace, where people can do all the vibrant things I described.

Have it covered to keep out the elements.

Put someone competent in charge of it to make sure it doesn't become overrun by clip joints and chains, and finds a balance between market-rate merchants and lower-cost slots run by local students, immigrants, and non-profits.

The Plaza Marketplace would be an extension of the much-smaller market planned for the other side of Congress Street, but if the idea is good, why think small, right mayor?

Done properly, this could transform Boston's worst public space into its best. And rid us of an eyesore besides.

Listen to Jon's commentary:

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

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