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Give Quincy Market an unsentimental reboot

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The Boston Globe, February 2024

I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Quincy Market.

The site was a tangle of old warehouse buildings when I came to Boston as a college student in the early 1970s. Back then, it boasted two attractions — a greasy spoon named Mondo’s, which I didn’t patronize, and Durgin-Park, a restaurant that I did. It was known for deliberately rude waitresses and deliberately bland New England food. When I returned to Boston a few years after graduation, a dramatically remodeled Quincy Market was in full blossom. In the 1980s, when I worked out of the Globe’s City Hall bureau, I hung out at a bar in the North Market Building that attracted loquacious pols. In the ’90s, the market was a great destination for kids and out-of-town guests. It had street performers, ice cream, and, for a time, even a book store. Diversity was never its strong point, but in Boston, that wasn’t unusual. For me, it was a fun place to walk around while contemplating the intersection of Boston history with my own.

Wait a minute. Full stop. That trip down memory lane shows exactly what’s wrong with the place: its association with tourists and white suburbanites, and its evocation of a bygone era. When I walk there now from the Globe’s State Street offices, what’s officially known as the Faneuil Hall Marketplace looks old and tired and feels out of touch with Boston. Durgin-Park, which closed in 2019, once offered up a slice of genuine Boston culture before turning into an overpriced tourist trap. Now, instead of a local hang-out where City Hall gossip was exchanged, there’s a Margaritaville at that site.

Some of its problems can be traced to a post-pandemic drop in foot traffic and to a neglectful landlord. But it also needs a major makeover, one that broadens its appeal to a hipper, more diverse Boston crowd. How do you do that? Tweak the old formula with cooler shops, restaurants, and bars? Turn it into an innovation center for startups and other entrepreneurs? Construct a zipline from Faneuil Hall to the far end of the South Market Building?

Read more at The Boston Globe.

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