Friday, March 28, 2008

BRA Clarification on Melcher St. Project

FPNA has been working with the BRA to get responses to some of the concerns and questions raised by residents over the 49-63 Melcher St. Project (Project details available on the Project Page on the BRA's site).

"As of Right"
At the meeting Tony Goldman and his architect said a number of times that their project as "as of right". I contacted Kristin Kara, the Project Manager from the BRA, and she was very helpful and clarified the BRA's position.

She said that while Goldman had called the project "as of right", those weren't her words and it's not how she would describe things, as this is part of a PDA rather than part of the zoning process. She said a more accurate way to put it is that the BRA considers the project consistent with the 100 Acres PDA (a PDA, or Planned Development Area, is a section of the city, like Fort Point, where the BRA has put aside normal zoning rules and instead imposed special guidelines just for this district). I asked specifically about the way the plan deals with its additional height and infill and she said the BRA considers both consistent with the PDA.

There remains an open question of how the BRA is going to make progress on the overall objectives for the neighborhood, like open space and a critical mass of residential development, will be achieved. This was raised to the the BRA's new Director, John Palmieri, by FPNA and other neighborhood groups at a meeting with him two weeks ago and the BRA is looking at ways to have the elements of the plan the community is excited for concurrent with those favorable to developers' bottom lines. This was part of the reason the comment period for the project was extended.

There were also a number of residents concerned about wind in the street behind the building (Necco Ct). A wind study was done, though it was qualitative, not quantitative, as there weren't significant wind changes expected. Kristin put me in touch with someone from the BRA who has more expertise with wind studies. The wind expert looked through the study and posed some questions to Frank Durgin, the engineer who performed the study. She felt the study was appropriate and well done, and she was very confident that there wouldn't be significant changes given the direction of the wind and the current levels. One point she made was that, on Necco Court, the wind currently swirls in the voids in the building. After the in-fills are put in, the wind should go up and over the building (in part because of the design of the tops of the additions) which should reduce the wind on the street level.

While these are not the only concerns residents raised, I appreciate the BRA getting back to us and clarifying their position on these items.

Barking Crab Shutdown - Coincidence ?

The Barking Crab was cited and shutdown by city inspectional services days after Hynes' development proposal which includes moving the restaurant was unveiled.

City cites eatery on key waterfront spot
By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., Globe Staff | March 27, 2008

Inspectors from the City of Boston yesterday temporarily shut down the popular Barking Crab restaurant on the Fort Point Channel, citing the owners with sanitary violations in the kitchen and possible structural issues in the pilings that support the building.

In what may be a coincidence, Boston Inspectional Services Department officials arrived at the restaurant on the day a co-owner of the Barking Crab complained in a news story about the property owner's announcement of plans to relocate the eatery.

A Barking Crab spokesman told The Boston Globe yesterday that co-owner Scott Garvey wasn't aware of developer John B. Hynes III's proposal to relocate the restaurant off the water and into a new building as part of his waterfront project, Seaport Square. Hynes said he spoke to the eatery's other co-owner, Lee Kennedy, about the move.
Read full article.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Comment Period for Summer St and Melcher St Projects Extended

The BRA is extending the comment period for both the 316-322 Summer St. and the 49-63 Melcher St. projects by 15 days; the new deadlines are April 10th and 11th (respectively). This gives residents more time to send in their comments; please take the time to do so. Comments will be read and do make a difference. The extension is in response to community feedback at the neighborhood meetings as well as a meeting FPNA and other neighborhood groups had with John Palmieri, the new director of the BRA, last Thursday. See the Globe article below with coverage of this.

Comments can be sent to the project manager:

316-322 Summer St.
Jay Rourke, BRA Project Manager

49-63 Melcher St.
Kristin Kara, BRA Project Manager

City is focused on Fort Point area
Public fund may be used to encourage homes for artists

By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., Globe Staff | March 26, 2008

Distressed that an ailing housing market is undermining development of a vibrant mixed-use community of residences and businesses in the Fort Point Channel neighborhood, Boston officials yesterday vowed to try to do something about it - possibly even putting money into residential projects.

The city might use money from its affordable housing fund - contributed to by past developers - to encourage construction of housing that would accommodate resident artists, according to Boston Redevelopment Authority director John Palmieri.

Palmieri met with a group of concerned residents and artists from the area last week about the lack of housing. "They made some very strong points, to put it mildly," he said.
Read full article

Seaport Square Planning Principles Meeting, 4/3

A community meeting will be held to identify planning principles to guide the development of Seaport Square, the 23-acre area in South Boston owned by Gale International, Morgan Stanley, and WS Development.

Thursday, April 3, 2007
Condon School-200 D Street, South Boston

Seaport Square Coverage

There's a couple of articles in the Herald about the Seaport Square development. It's nice to see a developer with some vision who's encouraging a mixed-use neighborhood with residential, cultural, and educational components as an integral part of the plan. Hopefully he's serious and there's a real plan for how to stage part of each element concurrently. As we've seen with other developers (Tony Goldman), a few years after a grand plan is unveiled, it can be put aside and replaced with office building after office building.

Seaport: One-stop living
Hynes’ plan mixes work, home, school
By Scott Van Voorhis | Wednesday, March 26, 2008 | | Business & Markets

Seaport Square developer John Hynes is offering companies a sweet package deal: rent office space in his development and get housing for your employees and even seats in a private school for their children.

Hynes yesterday pulled the wraps off his 20-block Seaport Square project, which would take shape on a tract of windswept parking lots just across the street from Fan Pier on South Boston’s waterfront.

The veteran tower developer kicked off a series of meetings with South Boston residents and groups to win crucial neighborhood support for his project.

But Hynes is also preparing to sell his $3 billion project to a global audience, one made up of corporate executives weighing the merits of different cities for their next expansion.

And the Hub developer believes, by offering housing and a school along with corporate suites, that he has the formula to bring some of these companies, and their high-paying jobs, to Boston.

“You can’t get that anywhere in the world,” Hynes said. “It obviously promotes our project and second, it helps promote Boston as forward-thinking and open for business.”

Under Hynes’ proposal, a company looking to rent office space in his project would likely have to pay the current market rate, about $70 a square foot. But for another $8 a square foot, Hynes said, for example, he could throw in 100 apartments. Add another $3 per square foot, and he will throw in tuition at his project’s showcase private school for the tenant’s employees’ children.

The Hub developer says he can offer this “one-stop shopping” because of the wide-ranging nature of his Seaport Square plan, which includes 2,500 residential units, 1.5 million square feet of office space and a 1,500-student private school run by a private company, Nations Academy. In a new twist, there would also be a public school, an “early learning center” for preschool through grade one children.

Still, Hynes first has to win over his neighbors, including the owners of the Barking Crab, a waterfront eatery the developer has proposed relocating into his project.

“We are more steamed than one of our lobsters,” said Barking Crab spokesman George Regan.

Regan contends the eatery was not properly consulted before the developer went public - a claim Hynes vigorously denies.


Seaport plan calls for moving chapel, eatery

By Scott Van Voorhis | Tuesday, March 25, 2008 | | Business & Markets

A sweeping $3 billion redevelopment plan for South Boston’s waterfront includes relocating two harborfront landmarks: The Barking Crab restaurant and a historic fishermen’s chapel.

Developer John Hynes plans to formally unveil his Seaport Square redevelopment plan tonight in a meeting with South Boston residents.

Hynes envisions converting what’s now some 22 acres of windswept parking lots across from the Moakley federal courthouse into a new neighborhood of 5,000 residents.

Hynes, the son of TV newscaster Jack Hynes and grandson of legendary Boston Mayor John B. Hynes, is proposing 6.5 million square feet of development - the equivalent of four Hancock Towers.

Plans call for everything from hotels and condos to office high-rises and a school.

Hynes hopes to break ground on the project later this year.

That’s welcome news to industry observers, who’ve feared the troubled economy and national credit crunch would stop new Hub projects.

“It’s a very ambitious goal, and all of us welcome any developer who wants to move forward in a timely manner,” said Vivien Li, head of the Boston Harbor Association.

Hynes wants to relocate the Barking Crab to the first floor of a planned 35-unit condo building, complete with cafe-style seating in front.

He’s also in talks over a deal to move a longtime fishermen’s church, the Chapel of Our Lady of Good Voyage, to a nearby site that now is a parking lot.

Hynes wants to use the church’s current site for an 18-story office high-rise, while the Barking Crab’s location would become part of the existing HarborWalk.

“What we are interested in doing is getting those smaller projects out of the way and (tackling) the bigger projects in 2009,” Hynes told the Herald.

Still, getting one or both landmarks to agree to move is no easy task.

Barking Crab owner Scott Garvey said he’s not ruling anything out, but added that the eatery enjoys its current waterfront perch.

“We really think the Barking Crab is unique and . . . something of a landmark,” Garvey said. “We don’t want to take that away from the city. But obviously, things are changing here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Seaport Square Meeting, Tues 3/25

There's a meeting tomorrow night in which the BRA will present an overview for the Seaport Square project. It's a mixed-use project with a focus on retail that's rumored to contain a a mall.

Seaport Square
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Moakley Courthouse

Division-Department: Planning and Zoning - BRA

Description: A community meeting will be held to identify planning principles to guide the development of Seaport Square, the 23-acre area owned by Gale International, Morgan Stanley, and WS Development. This meeting will kickoff a series of discussions regarding transportation, uses, and open space. Location: John Joseph Moakley Courthouse

Monday, March 17, 2008

Notes from 49/51/63 Melcher St Meeting

The meeting 49/51/63 Melcher St. on Thursday was one of the more hostile community meetings I've been to. Residents spoke out loud and clear that they were unhappy both with the project as well as the larger development process for the neighborhood.

Tony GoldmanTony Goldman of Goldman Properties was there and took the stance that he can do the project as-of-rights (ie, without getting any additional approval from the city or BRA), so he was not interested in any concessions or changes. This was a point of a contention during the meeting. FPNA has contacted the BRA to confirm this.

The full plan is available on the BRA's website:
49/51/63 Melcher PNF Page

Concerns raised by residents there included:

-The district is already 85% office and the 100 Acres plan calls for 1/3 each of residential, retail, and office space. Does this makes it impossible to have 33% residential ? Even if not, the neighborhood has a ton of catching up to do.

-Residents were displeased that developers seemed to be picking the elements from the 100 Acres plan that benefited them, and ignoring the elements that didn't. They would like to see greenspaces and residential projects built alongside the office towers, not many years.

-There was disagreement that the rooftop additions are as-of-right and don't require a variance. Kristin Kara, who moderated and represented the BRA, said that "my understanding is that a variance is not needed... the BRA believes that this project does not require a variance."

-Contractors for previous Goldman projects have caused problems, including parking in lots they don't own and working outside of the approved work hours.

-Goldman's commitment to the city and the neighborhood was questioned. They bought 17 properties, got the plan approved, and then sold off many of them. In addition, with this project alone, 91 artists were evicted and many local businesses, creating a deadzone in the heart of the neighborhood where there used be a very vibrant block with public performances and active businesses.

-Kristin Kara said that the BRA is interested in having community benefits for every development project and would seek them for this project, however, there were none at this time. Concern was raised that the comment period ends in two weeks, which means the public is being shut out of this part of the process.

-There was a lot of disapproval of the additions on the back of the building. Residents felt that the existing nooks are interesting and would make great pocket parks. It will also mean the loss of those historic facades and footprints. And, very pragmatically, that street is currently a quiet street that pedestrians prefer to walk on as it's sheltered from the wind; making the building one large rectangle will make it a wind tunnel and very unattractive, large block.

-This is one of the two tallest buildings in all of Fort Point. People asked why there was a need to do a rooftop addition ? It's less than 5% of the total square footage, but is a significant change to an historic building.

-91 artists were displaced by Goldman and a number of art galleries. The loss of neighborhood institutions like Studio Soto has had a real impact on the neighborhood. And there are no artist or art spaces in this or any of Goldman's development projects, at all.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Notes from 316 Summer St Meeting

Thanks to Mike T for writing up some notes from the meeting for the 316-322 Summer St project. Full details of the project are available on the BRA's 316-322 Summer St. Project Page. Public comments may be sent to the Project Manager, Jay Rourke:

Some of the concerns raised included:

1. Another rooftop addition to dampen the original design integrity of yet another historic Boston Wharf Building in Fort Point.

2. Office conversion. This building, like many around it, lends itself to housing -a better means to extend the character of Fort Point as a neighborhood carved from the existing fabric -instead, it looks like any housing in the future will be, primarily, in new construction (yawn). Existing buildings usually offer opportunity for more affordable units as well (Less overall constr. cost). So if all the old stuff is gobbled up as office . . .

3. The BRA yields to the market when it should be planning. The feeling is that the BRA could have set aside a percentage of the historic "Boston Wharf" fabric for housing use only. I suppose that's a legal challenge, but one they coulda-shoulda risen to. Good planning should have teeth to transcend market forces -to adhere to a vision. In the eyes of most who live here, this conversion to office (and one similar planned for Melcher Street) -fails that test. Its especially annoying after many years of rhetoric about making this a neighborhood. Summer Street will simply roll up after 6:00.

Gladly, one good mitgation feature is that the owners have expressed interest in working with the artists community to possibly program their ground floor -perhaps with a gallery.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Reminder: Meetings tonight (316 Summer) and Thursday night (51 Melcher)

Reminder that there's a community meeting this evening to talk about changes to the project at 316-322 Summer St.:

Community Meeting for 316-322 Summer St.
Tuesdsay, March 11th
6:30 PM
55 Thompson Place, First Floor Conference Room

And tomorrow night is Archon's meeting for their 51 Melcher St project:

Community Meeting for 49-63 Melcher St.
Thursday, March 13th
6:30 PM
51 Melcher St.

Some basic details on each project are on the BRA's website:

316-322 Summer St. Project
49-63 Melcher St. Project

Both projects are looking to make significant changes including adding height. If you have concerns or opinions, get out and make them heard. You can also send comments to the appropriate project manager at the BRA:

316-322 Summer St.
Jay Rourke
BRA Project Manager

49-63 Melcher St.
Kristin Kara
BRA Project Manager

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Community Meeting for 316-322 Summer St. on March 11th

I just found out about a meeting NPC is holding on the 11th for 316-322 Summer St. It's a Notice of Project Change and, among others, they're looking to add height to the building and add an entrance on A St.

Community Meeting for 316-322 Summer St.
Tuesdsay, March 11th
6:30 PM
55 Thompson Place, First Floor Conference Room