A Light On for Character: Maintaining Boston’s Identity

As soon as I stepped out of the car, I saw it, the tangible reminder of things no more. Out of the thousands of times I had taken the short walk down Beacon Street and right on Miner toward Fenway, this was the most significant.

I had heard and experienced the often strange and terrifying force of sudden change, but this instance in particular struck me as both odd and weirdly uplifting.

The Elephant Walk, at the corner of Beacon and St. Mary’s, had served as my point of reference for the entirety of freshman year. When all else failed, the Elephant Walk was always there to guide me home—until last semester, that is.

For a very long time, all that remained of one of my favorite quirky sights of Boston was a hole in the ground, and a promise for a new development to take its place.

As the months went by, however, its perpetual stillness left me feeling like something had been ripped from the area’s character. That corner felt to me as inherent to Boston as the T, the Red Sox, and bad driving, although in its own unique way—but I digress, back to my walk this weekend.

The hole was now filled by a brand new building—just the outer metal beams, that is—but the fact remains that the new construction had managed what I believed impossible only a week prior, to fill that tangible and metaphorical empty space.

It’s a testament to the thriving redevelopment sector of the city over the past few years. I remember coming to Boston when I was 15, and the sights from that visit, especially from the Financial District and the Fenway area, are overwhelmingly different from the actual state of the city.

Just in the past year, the Fenway area has seen the opening of the City Target, Wahlburgers, and several residential buildings, among others. It has become the epitome of up-and-coming neighborhoods in the city.

The innovation bug has also bitten many colleges and universities, BC included, and have embarked upon several projects that will undoubtedly bring individuals in the area much-needed financial income.

The city has emerged from the depths of the Great Recession with intent, and not only in the redevelopment sector. General Electric recently announced that it’s moving its global headquarters to Boston, a new casino is set to open in Suffolk, and (finally!) the Government Center T station is scheduled to re-open in late March.

CareerBuilder recently released a new study that outlined how each major city in the U.S. performed in job creation, and evaluated whether they met the projections. Boston, although not in the top 10, managed to keep pace with the national rate.

What this shows is that we are currently experiencing a new renaissance in the city, with every aspect of the city seeing at least marginal improvement (MBTA, I’m talking to you).

What I hope to see is that during this rapid expansion and improvement of the city, the features that make the city what it is are not lost in the process. I cannot imagine Boston without its trademark brownstones, road-sharing subway cars (there is a good in everything), Citgo sign, Newbury Street, or hell, even the annoying-yet-quaint cobblestone streets of the North End.

It may have been too late for the Elephant Walk, and I may be alone in this quasi-obsession with that place, but it is sights like that which made the city feel that much more like home.

Featured Image by Abby Paulson/ Heights Editor

About Juan Olavarria 70 Articles
Juan Olavarria is the Metro Editor for The Heights. He is double majoring in Economics and Philosophy. He enjoys watching Liverpool FC and has to frequently remind himself to stop trying to defend the merits of a midfield diamond. You can follow him on Twitter at @Juan_Heights.

1 Comment

  1. “..a new casino is set to open in Suffolk”. There is no town in MA named Suffolk. I think you meant Everett

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