In Metro-Boston's #1 Most Walkable Town, We Propose a New Civic Place for Commerce and Culture.
Maynard, MA. The downtown business district of this former Mill Town centers on the triangle formed by Summer, Nason, and Main Streets. Over the course of the 20th century and with little apparent deliberacy the interior of this block was paved for parking. The area became an unsightly back-of-house utility zone; Functioning well enough for cars but hazardous for pedestrians and an eyesore for visitors, it recently earned official "blight" status from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
A study commissioned by the municipal government and presented by Fine Point Associates in 2014 found strong potential for growing a "food, culture, and entertainment destination" in Maynard, and identified this block's interior ("the basin") as a central component of that potential. In 2015, a local Cultural District Initiative was launched identifying the basin as one of four place-assets whose enrichment would be especially valuable to the growth of such a destination. In 2016, the Maynard Cultural Council (primary proponent of the district) hosted the "Water Ball" in the basin, hinting at the power a central civic space here would have to pull-together the downtown. In 2017, the Maynard Cultural District earned official recognition from the Commonwealth. Over the last several years, multiple steps forward have been taken here by town government and by private entities. Each of those efforts has proceeded toward a 'vision' which has by now become widely shared and supported in its vague aspirational sense, though no Master Plan is present to coordinate such efforts or compose the whole.
While the largest parcels in the area are owned by the town, several privately-held parcels contribute important chunks of space and potential. In municipal government a "Master Plan" is an encyclopedic statement of principles and objectives meant to guide physical and economic growth into the future generally and the next decade in particular. A vast effort by dozens of citizen volunteers working with consultants from VHB and Landwise produced a new 239-page Maynard Master Plan document, officially adopted in 2020.
Within the design disciplines (Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Urbanism, etc) and the Construction Industry, the word plan has a different and very specific meaning. A plan is a two-dimensional graphic tool for the study and resolution of problems through geometric composition. In the context of real existing conditions represented in plan, otherwise-siloed aspirations and principles confront each other in the kind-of zero-sum game of spatial composition.
We launched this Master Plan project in a Summer 2020 version of our Moonlight Studio InSitu charrette / workshop process. We studied the structural geometric factors cooked-into the context here which seem to have challenged and limited improvements in the area. We then tried to un-tie a few of those knots and compose new relationships, iterating over and over to cultivate compositional synergies by which individual aspects of the proposed solution can support and enrich each other, and combine as a cohesive and comprehensive whole.
In our plan, Glendale Street and Naylor Court connect directly, stitching together circulation from North and South (and better integrating the Maynard Public Library and the Fine Arts Cinema into the fabric of the area). East of this new connecting road, parking expands and connects with the lot at Emerson Medical. West of the road, a series of civic spaces cascades incrementally southward from the triangle's North/Northwest tip: From the gateway vista at Veteran's Memorial to the Summer Street Overlook to the serene Naylor Green and The Basin playground and splash pad. Etched into the descent, a slender channel feeds a rain garden to manage groundwater re-change. Four distinct routes weave a fabric of connections to Nason Street, by which pedestrians, emergency vehicles, service vehicles, and drivers of private cars all have a place.
While Studio InSitu is contracted with the Town of Maynard to perform Design Review services, this project is unrelated to that role. This plan has been undertaken on Studio InSitu's initiative and developed through the efforts of Moonlight Studio volunteers with critique and contributions from several collaborators and stake-holders. This plan has not been endorsed by the Planning Board, nor does it have any official status in relation to the Maynard Master Plan or other Town programs or initiatives.
We believe complex spatial and circulation problems are best solved by the rigorous application of the design disciplines' tools of the trade. We offer this Master Plan to all parties working to improve Maynard's public realm, and we welcome all critique. We hope this holistic view of the basin and our opportunities there can serve as a template by which to guide incremental actions toward synergy, meaningful accumulation... and meaningful ends. To breathe some semblance of life into the plan, we are developing a three-dimensional model of the whole, and we offer below this 'rough-cut' video walkthrough of that model.