About Us History

A Better City is a premier group of business and institutional leaders problem solving to ensure the interests of the public and their organizations are met through open and transparent dialogue.

The formation of A Better City, formerly the Artery Business Committee, was led by Boston developers Norman Leventhal and Edwin Sidman, who focused on building support from the business community to help ensure the success of the Big Dig. The Artery Business Committee initially focused on three areas: ensuring that the downtown would be accessible during construction; ensuring that the finished project would adequately serve downtown; and ensuring that political and legal controversies did not threaten the project.

In 1989, ABC established three committees focused on design, operations, and marketing. Within a year, 150 of the city's leading experts in construction, design, permitting, and public relations were serving on the ABC committee. As David Luberoff cited in his 2004 case study PDF, Harold Hestnes, an early member of the ABC commented: "This is the greatest loaned talent effort of any business community effort that I have ever seen. ... Some of the most competent and credible people you could imagine came to the table and people devoted hundreds of hours to this. ... It was marvelous and it continues to this day."

Throughout construction of the Central Artery/Tunnel Project, ABC helped keep Boston open for business by helping shape and monitor construction mitigation, traffic management, construction means and methods, construction management, utility relocation, and highway architecture. As a result, the City of Boston enjoyed the lowest vacancy rate and the lowest unemployment rate in our history during construction of the project.

In 1990, a plan was released to set aside 75 percent of the 27 acres of new artery land for a park. ABC leaders recognized the benefits of open space in addition to pockets of new construction. Recognizing the need for public attractions such as museums or a performing arts center to attract people to the area, the ABC was instrumental in ensuring that the designations of two key parcels accommodate cultural institutions.

In 1991, ABC was successful in building consensus that the Charles River crossing for the project be a landmark bridge - serving as a gateway and an icon for the city. This resulted in the largest double suspension bridge in the world, known as the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge.

ABC ensured political support for the project over 17 years. At critical junctures, ABC provided private sector leadership to ensure that the project was not threatened. ABC secured support for the project from gubernatorial and congressional candidates since 1990.

ABC helped secure federal funds for the project at the beginning of the project and as the project grew in size, securing additional funding in 1991 when costs rose to $5 billion. ABC played an instrumental role to ensure Congress did not make deeper cuts to Massachusetts federal highway aid when project costs rose to $10 billion.

ABC has played a major role in the design of the Rose Kennedy Greenway, working with members of the community to help plan and design this great new open space for Boston.

ABC continues to partner with public, private, and community partners to meet the challenges the city of Boston is facing and will continue to do so long into the future. The "Big Dig" is over but many projects remain, and ABC will help the City of Boston meet the challenges of the new millennium and ensure a successful economic future for the city and the region.

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