What’s happening at Copley Square Park? Here’s the latest on the Back Bay site’s renovation


Copley Square Park is still more than a year away from reopening as it undergoes a major renovation.

A bare tree is fenced off next to a bench in a snow-covered Copley Square.
The city of Boston is redesigning Copley Square, a project that will take more than a year to complete. David L Ryan/Boston Globe

Renovations are moving along on the Copley Square Park project, with plans to provide more seating, more trees, and upgrades that make the space friendly to weekly events, according to the city. But the park’s reopening is still likely more than a year away.

In the city’s latest update, officials said that most pavement, all light poles, and the five pieces of art have been removed from the Back Bay park since construction began in late July. 

Pavement materials piled up at Copley Square. Courtesy of the City of Boston

A big part of the project, which has a budget of $16.9 million, includes updates to the fountain. The neighborhood made it clear to the city that this landmark is not slated for too many changes, so the construction crew is focusing on getting the fountain up to code and providing more seating around it instead of giving it a drastic facelift. 

B Chatfield, the project manager, said some of the fountain’s most notable features — the two obelisks and spouts, for example — will be kept the same. But what they are renovating is the pool of the fountain.

“Right now the depth of it essentially falls into the category of a swimming pool,” Chatfield said. “We don’t have lifeguards. So we’re going to be making it a little bit shallower.”

The pool of the fountain is also getting an edge treatment to curve the sides. There will also be plenty of seating around the fountain, Chatfield said.

Those involved with the project post monthly updates on the city’s dedicated website for the Copley Square renovation, and the September update said fountain renovations would begin soon.

A rendering of the new fountain at Copley Square. Courtesy of the City of Boston

A new feature to expect at Copley Square, once it’s done, is a “raised grove.” Chatfield said this will involve a raised platform designed to keep people seated among the abundance of new trees the park without stepping on tree roots. In the old park, people who sat near the trees often stepped on tree roots to snag a shaded spot, causing a “slow death” of the trees, Chatfield said.

“It’s essentially a deck structure around those trees so they can sit among them, be beneath them but not step on those roots,” she said.

The Boston Globe also reports that there will be more trees at the new Copley Square, but less grass. 

Chatfield added that the park will be designed with more seating in intentional areas that give visitors all the park’s best views it has to offer. And as far as events go, the design was made so the events that already take place there — such as its Farmer’s Market and the Boston Marathon Fan Fest — can utilize the space better. But the new park will not necessarily be able to accommodate more or bigger events. 

Eventually the city will add public art to the square. City officials first put out the call on June 27, seeking practicing visual artists and poets to honor themes of community solidarity, empathy, and acknowledgment of loss.

Chatfield said artists have been finalized, but the Boston Art Commission has to wait for much of the significant construction to wrap before they can add new art to the space. 

And while not under the scope of the Copley Square construction, there is another change to the area surrounding the park that city officials are mulling over: a permanent street closure to non-emergency vehicles.

City officials tested the concept in June 2022, turning a block of Dartmouth Street near Copley Square into a pedestrian plaza, with only emergency vehicles having access to the road. They reported in January it was a success in terms of drawing visitors to the plaza while not tremendously increasing commutes in the area. Now the city has hired a team to study a permanent plan to turn the street into a pedestrian-friendly zone, the Globe reports.

As for Copley Square, construction got off to a late start due to approval they needed from the MBTA, because the Green Line tunnel is located about 30 feet away from the park’s north sidewalk. And the project certainly won’t be done in time for the 2024 Boston Marathon. 

But Chatfield said they should still be able to meet their deadline of late fall 2024 — as long as this year’s winter is a mild one.