date published: December 19, 2005

The Hub It Is A-Changin'Making New Year's resolutions? The City of Boston is making changes as well-from museum expansions to a growing green scene

by Josh B. Wardrop

Boston boasts some great art museums, but it would be fair to say most aren't exactly cutting edge. In fact, there hasn't been a major art museum building constructed in Boston in a century. Beginning in 2006, though, an unprecedented round of construction and renovation to Boston's existing art museums will take the city by storm.
   First out of the gate is the September '06 opening of the brand-new Institute of Contemporary Art , which sees the ICA relocating from a small facility in a converted firehouse (so small that the museum has never been able to house a permanent collection) to a $62 million, 650,000 square foot, state-of-the-art glass and metal structure on Fan Pier in South Boston, overlooking Boston Harbor. Designed by architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the new ICA will be a true 21st century institution, complete with multiple galleries, two-story art lab and a 325-seat performing arts theater.
   Meanwhile, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has retained Italian architect Renzo Piano to design their first addition since the Gardner opened in 1903-a multistory gallery that will triple the Gardner's special exhibitions space by the time it's completed in 2010.
   Just down the road, the Museum of Fine Arts (the city's last newly built art museum, in 1909) is also looking toward the future, breaking ground November 14 on the newest phase of its $425 million expansion campaign-a plan that calls for a new multi-level gallery to house the MFA's extensive American art collections, a glass courtyard for public gatherings, and the reopening of an entrance facing the grassy Fenway area.
   And Boston's new trend of museum expansion isn't limited to simply art galleries. The Boston Children's Museum and Museum of Science have recently announced plans to expand, as have museums at several colleges and universities.

The new year is set to be verdant for the Hub, as the city completes the long-awaited Rose Kennedy Greenway - a 30-acre string of public parks stretching from Causeway Street near the North End to Kneeland Street in the heart of Chinatown.
   The project, named for the late matriarch of America's legendary political family, replaces the Central Artery roadway, done away with by Boston's infamous "Big Dig." By the end of next year, it's expected the series of public green spaces will be "substantially complete," providing space for new parks, ponds, performance spaces and more, including a proposed four-acre "Garden Under Glass" to be built by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.

In late 2005, Swedish home furnishing giant IKEA opened its first Massachusetts store in Stoughton, about 40 minutes south of Boston. Next up, Barney's New York will open a flagship store at the Copley Place mall in the spring, while popular clothiers H&M are allegedly expanding from their Downtown Crossing location into a major new spot on Newbury Street sometime in '06.
   The sad news for devoted shopaholics and diehard traditionalists is the impending loss of one Boston retail giant: Filene's at Downtown Crossing, which departs sometime after February 1, to be replaced by an as-yet-unnamed retailer.

Rose Kennedy GreenwayA WHOLE NEW BALLGAME
The Boston Bruins returned from a year's layoff following the NHL strike, and got off to such a rough start that they did what many considered unthinkable: trading the franchise's golden boy captain, Joe Thornton, to San Jose. Time will tell if the bold move creates a spark for the B's, or is the beginning of a total revamp for the black and gold.
   Meanwhile, the Red Sox head toward 2006 in as much of a state of flux as any time in their history. They've already lost homegrown GM, Theo Epstein, amid rumblings of front office strife (see sidebar). Team personnel is changing too, with the Sox trading starting shortstop Edgar Renteria, acquiring ace pitcher Josh Beckett and dealing with enigmatic slugger Manny Ramirez's trade request and the free agency of team heartthrob Johnny Damon. When the dust settles, Sox fans can expect a very different team than the World Series champs of just two years ago.
   In addition, Fenway Park itself continues to undergo physical changes geared at expanding capacity and enhancing the Sox experience. The 2006 season will see the glass removed from the 406 Club seating behind home plate, with the existing seats being split into two levels and new standing room only and box seats added to bump capacity of the park to 38,805.

Let's face it-age takes it toll on all of us, eventually. That's why some prominent area sights are spending 2006 undergoing cosmetic reconstruction intended to make them things of beauty for future generations to enjoy.
   In Cambridge, the Mount Auburn Cemetery -final resting place of luminaries from the worlds of arts and science such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, B.F. Skinner, Mary Baker Eddy and many more-is celebrating its 175th anniversary with new landscaping. Additionally, its historic Bigelow Chapel will undergo a major restoration, including a new exhibit detailing the cemetery's history.
   For more than four years, the site of the old Boston Tea Party Museum has been derelict after a fire caused when the structure was struck by lightning. Next year, however, plans will move forward to erect a new, larger museum with interactive exhibits and memorabilia, which will be flanked by three replica clipper ships currently being restored up in Gloucester. The new museum, expected to be complete by early 2007, promises to be a key attraction in the ongoing development of the Fort Point Channel neighborhood in South Boston.

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And How Was Your Year?
Some of Boston's most prominent names had an eventful 2005, with even more on their plate for 2006. Here's a look at what some of the city's notable figures were up to in the last 12 months.


TEDY BRUSCHI: The stalwart linebacker of three Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots teams suffered a mild stroke in February, which was linked to a tiny hole in his heart. Incredibly, after sitting out the first few months of the season, Bruschi returned to action in November after being cleared medically, and he and the Pats are on a course to the playoffs again.

MAYOR THOMAS MENINO: Also in November, Menino entered rarified air as he was elected to his fourth consecutive term at the helm of the Hub, beating out former City Councilor Maura Hennigan. Should he serve out his full term, Menino (affectionately known as "Mumbles" to many of his constituents) will become Boston's longest-serving mayor.


GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY: Massachusetts' 2004 decision to allow gay marriage might have been a blessing in disguise for slicked-back Mormon Romney. Throughout 2005, Romney-who vehemently opposed the measure-stepped up his out-of-state appearances, trumpeting family values before Republican groups across the nation. Romney was also given a position of national authority in the GOP, being named chairman of the Republican Governors Association in November. All of this profile-raising has led many to speculate that Romney will depart his gig here in the Bay State for a presidential run in 2008.

LARRY SUMMERS: Ever have one of those statements you wish you could take back the second it comes out of your mouth? Summers, the president of Harvard University, sure does: it came in January, when he remarked to the National Bureau of Economic Research that women may have a hard time excelling in the sciences because of "innate differences" between the sexes. The resulting uproar led to Summers receiving a no confidence vote from Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and, one would imagine, a raised finger from a passing female motorist or two.

MATT AMORELLO: It's never easy being chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, but it's safe to say that 2005 isn't a year Amorello will look back on as one of his professional high watermarks. In March, Romney filed papers trying to get Amorello removed from his position as chief of the Big Dig after it was revealed that the expensive new I-93 tunnel was full of leaks. Amorello vowed to fight to keep his position, has done so, and is no doubt hoping 2006 will bring a light at the end of the Big Dig tunnel.

THEO EPSTEIN: Perhaps miffed at being referred to as "Boy Wonder" one too many times, the 31-year-old general manager of the Boston Red Sox abruptly resigned his position with the Sox at the 11th hour of contract negotiations. Rumors persist that the Brookline native will return to baseball sooner rather than later (some media outlets have even perpetuated the rumor that he'll return the Sox in some capacity), but Theo's remained more or less mum since sneaking out of his Fenway Park offices on Halloween day dressed as a gorilla.