Jim FOPG Speech

The Imperative for Aspiration

Five questions for a world-class city to create a great public realm.

As I write this, Boston is currently one of over 200 cities that has submitted a bid for Amazon’s “HQ2” (along with 25 other bids from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts alone). Amazon’s bid process—not dissimilar to that for the 2024 Olympic Games several years ago—has generated an urgency to articulate a compelling and bold vision. In doing so, Boston’s bid also aims to address some of our region’s longstanding challenges, such as those related to transportation or our vulnerability to climate change.

Regardless of whether Boston is ultimately the winning city, I hope we are able to sustain the power of aspiration that infuses the exciting and forward-looking vision that Boston’s bid represents.

Aspiration makes for great cities, and this was a theme that I addressed recently when I was invited to speak at the Members’ Meeting for the Friends of the Public Garden. I entitled my remarks “The Imperative for Aspiration” as I reflected on some of the assets we have in our public realm.

In Boston, the Boston Common, the Public Garden, the Emerald Necklace, and the Charles River Esplanade, to name a few, are enduring treasures that animate this power of aspiration. But we cannot rest on our laurels, and I suggested five key questions that we must address in order to ensure continued aspiration with our public realm:

  1. What does public engagement with our public realm look like today?
  2. How can we nurture and encourage an embrace of a culture of experimentation and risk-taking in shaping our public realm?
  3. What are the ways that we can best activate public space?
  4. What is the impact of climate change on our parks?
  5. Where do we go from here?

Barr’s interest in this subject flows directly from our Waterfront Initiative, an effort focused on stewarding one of Boston’s treasures—our waterfront—for future generations by ensuring access for all, addressing climate resiliency, and creating great open spaces and parks.

Indeed, our collective ability to advocate for and invest in a great public realm is what will continue to draw great companies and talented people to a place like Boston. We remain committed at the Barr Foundation to serving as a constructive partner with those who share the importance of embracing such a long-term view.

If you are interested in learning more about my reflections on this subject, I invite you to read my full remarks to the Friends of the Public Garden below.

Read the full text of Jim's speech

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