Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Digital-non-Digital Show at FPAC Gallery


This exhibit includes the work of five Fort Point artists whose imagery results from the interplay of electronic technology and traditional media. Works by: Paul Allen Bernstein, Jeffrey Heyne, Krina Patel, Douglas Urbank (work pictured), Dorothea VanCamp

The exhibit runs December 12 - January 16 and is in the FPAC Gallery in the basement of 300 Summer Street. Viewing hours:

Monday-Wednesday: 9 AM to 3:30 PM
Thursday and Friday: 9 AM to 10 PM
Saturday: 5 PM to 10 PM

There will be a reception on January 8th from 5 to 8 PM. For more details, see the exhibit page.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Loud Construction at Channel Center

As many have had to deal with, Commonwealth Ventures is doing construction on 30 Channel Center St. and has very loud machinery that they've been operating until past 7 PM at night. They're planning on doing it again this evening and also tomorrow (Saturday). I've called Inspectional Services and the Mayor Menino's office to try to figure out if they were granted a permit and why; normal construction hours in Boston are until 6pm, Monday-Friday.

I'll keep the list updated as I learn more. You can also call Inspectional Services yourself and let them know your concerns at: 617.635.1010.

UPDATE: I spoke with Commonwealth Ventures. The noise is from dust collectors for the sandblasting they're doing and is going to continue through Christmas and probably until New Years. They had intentionally set their hours from 9 AM to 7 PM (instead of the normal 7am to 5pm) to not bother early risers. They're trying to finish the project by Christmas and weren't willing to curb their hours at this point. They did agree to make sure that the equipment was all completely off before 7 PM and in the future look for ways to put equipment facing the Gillette plant rather than residential buildings (they claimed in this case, the duct collectors couldn't reach the doorway from A St.).

UPDATE: I wasn't home after 7 PM Friday and Saturday, but have heard that they worked really late. If you were around and can either confirm or refute this, please email me: Commonwealth Ventures has many more permits they'll need and the city does listen when developers violate them.

UPDATE (1/2): The inspector from the city responsible for that site called me this afternoon. He said they were granted a permit to work off-hours as it was for work inside the building and they're usually granted automatically for work indoors. I told him while the work was in doors, the noise was very much outdoors. Clearly, Commonwealth Ventures was working the system. He agreed to speak with the foreman and watch them more carefully in the future.

Snow Emergency Declared

Mayor Thomas M. Menino today declared that a snow emergency and parking ban will go into effect at 9:00 a.m. Friday, December 19, 2008. Mayor Menino would like to remind residents of the following:
  • The City of Boston encourages businesses to ask employees to work from home when possible, take public transportation, and be prepared for a potentially dangerous evening commute. Everyone is encouraged to use public transportation.
  • City of Boston afternoon and evening activities are subject to cancellation.
  • Move cars from main arterials during snow emergencies. A listing of main arterials can be found at
  • Do not park cars within 20 feet of an intersection. Parking too close to an intersection can restrict emergency vehicle access.
  • Do not throw snow back into the street. "Throwbacks" force the city to remove snow from the same street twice.
  • Shovel out fire hydrants and storm drains close to your home.
  • Property owners are reminded to shovel snow from sidewalks that abut homes and businesses.
  • Do not double park.
  • Keep wheelchair ramps clear.
  • Lend an extra hand to elderly and neighbors and others in need.
During declared snow emergencies, discounted parking is available at several parking lots and garages to cars that display Boston resident parking stickers. A list of locations is available at The city's Know Snow program will be in effect this afternoon to alert residents of the snow emergency.

The City of Boston Storm Center will open at 9:00 a.m. Friday, when the snow emergency goes into effect. Residents with storm-related questions or concerns should call the center at 617-635-3050, starting at 9:00 a.m. Friday.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

WSJ Article on City Hall Plan

Recession, It Seems, Can Fight City Hall; Relocation Is on Hold
By Maura Webber Sadovi

For historic preservationists in Boston, the recession has brought some temporary relief. They had gotten riled up after Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said he hoped to move City Hall to a new site on the south waterfront.

He predicted last year that the move could take place in about four years. But now, with the recession tightening its grip on the nation's economy, Mayor Menino says he is reconsidering that timing. "I think it's further off," he says.

Mayor Menino says he is rethinking whether to spend about $2 million for engineering studies on the potential new City Hall site. "I can't consciously move ahead on a major project like this at this time. I have to think about my schools, think about my parks, my public works," he says.

Read full article...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Drive to Eastie for $0.40

If you drive and haven't gotten an orange, residents' Fast Lane Transponder, head over the Pike's office and pick one up. It's for residents of communities near the tunnels (including 02210) and gets you reduced rates on the tunnnel tolls. You can drive the Ted Williams tunnel for $0.40!

Their office is at 145 Havre St. in East Boston and is open:

Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 7 AM to 4:30 PM
Tuesday, Thursday: 7 AM to 6:30 PM
Saturday: 8 AM to 2 PM

For more information, see:

Friday, December 12, 2008

FPAC Art Store Open

The FPAC store is now open. It features art, design, and fine craft by members of the Fort Point Arts Community. The store will be open seven days a week in December.

It's located at 12 Farnsworth St., next to flour bakery behind the Children's Museum.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sportello Open for Dinner

Sportello is now opened for dinner and take-out in addition to lunch:

Sportello, Chef Barbara Lynch's newest venture in Boston's Fort Point neighborhood, is now serving dinner and offering take out. In addition to the trattoria-inspired soups, salads, and pastas also offered at lunch, dinner features entrees perfect for cold weather including braised short ribs with butter beans and sunchokes and salt-roasted pork shoulder with polenta and porcini.

Dinner is served Monday through Saturday, from 5:30 pm until 10:00 pm and reservations are welcome up to 28 days in advance.

For entertaining, gift-giving, or a quick bite, Sportello offers a number of delicious options from the bakery counter retail area. Handmade chocolates, incredible Ligurian olive oil, and Christine Ferber jams make great holiday gifts and our fresh pastas, soups, and salads are packaged and ready to serve for a simple meal at home. Cookies, tarts, breads, and more are baked each day and available along with Organic Peruvian coffee and MEM teas.

Globe Article on Melcher and Summer Projects

Development deal moves ahead
Some fighting warehouse plan

By Christina Pazzanese, Globe Correspondent | December 7, 2008

Despite widespread opposition from many in the Fort Point Channel neighborhood, the Boston Redevelopment Authority's board of directors voted 5-0 on Thursday to approve plans by developers Archon Group and Lincoln Properties to renovate and expand historic warehouses at 49/51/63 Melcher St. and 316-322 Summer St. for use as office buildings.

Just three years ago, developers and the city planning officials touted the buildings as part of a comprehensive revitalization effort that would transform the once run-down industrial area into a lively neighborhood with new housing, shops and restaurants, and parks.

In a tense and sometimes confrontational community meeting held last Monday night, dozens of artists and other Fort Point residents took the developers and the BRA's chief planner, Kairos Shen, to task for plans that involve evicting more than 70 artists and arts-related small businesses from two warehouses to make way for more office space.

"You lied to us. You have not kept one promise to the community," said artist Claudia Ravaschiere, a former president of Fort Point Arts Community. Ravaschiere blasted representations made by executives from Archon and Goldman Properties since first purchasing 17 buildings in Fort Point back in 2005. "To you, it's just real estate, but to us, it's a neighborhood," she said.

Though both properties are zoned for a mix of commercial and residential uses, developers say the current real estate market will only support office space. Archon's John Matteson defended his firm's efforts, saying the company has upgraded a number of mostly-vacant buildings and filled them with commercial tenants who are bringing much-needed foot traffic to the area.

Both projects will be subject to further design review by the BRA to scale back the height of planned rooftop additions and still need approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals before moving forward, said Susan Elsbree, the BRA's director of communications.

Critics say the city's support for these plans abandons core principles of the BRA's 100 Acres Master Plan that pledged to bring equal amounts of housing, retail and other businesses and office space to the area. Adding more offices doesn't improve the quality of life for residents and pushes still more artists out of the neighborhood, they said.

"This is a situation of the BRA supporting the developers and not supporting the community," said resident Valerie Burns, who serves on the city's study committee considering whether to designate Fort Point as a landmark district. .

"Fort Point is the back office of the Financial District. That's how they see it," said resident Steve Hollinger, cofounder of Seaport Alliance for a Neighborhood Design (SAND). He accused the BRA of "reselling variances" to developers who buy buildings in the area, obtain the city's permission to add valuable roof-top additions and other special zoning expansions that provide little public benefit and are often done over the objections of residents, and then unload the properties for a hefty profit.

Hollinger said developers are hiding behind the current economic crisis to avoid creating more housing because it's more profitable to build office space.

Shen conceded the projects fall short of the goal of creating more housing in Fort Point but said the BRA was asked by Mayor Thomas M. Menino to review all stalled building projects with 'burdensome' residential restrictions. "The Mayor wants to see these projects move forward," he said.

At only 50,000 square feet, Shen added, the Melcher Street project is small and will generate $500,000 in linkage payments to the city to go toward creating parks and other open spaces in Fort Point sometime in the future.

Lincoln Properties will contribute $340,000 and spend another $680,000 to upgrade 319 A St. to accommodate displaced artists. Shen conceded local parks are not likely to be built any time soon since the city must wait until more buildings are developed to have enough money to start work on them.

Heidi Burbidge, the BRA's senior project manager for the Artist Space Initiative, said about 72 artists, plus some additional arts-related businesses, face eviction from 337 Summer St. and the front portion of 319 A St.

Under a plan hatched a few weeks ago, Burbidge said, all are eligible to move into the rear portion of 319 A St., though she estimated probably only about 40 or so will take up the relocation offer since some had already moved out before the city stepped in, fearing the worst.

In late 2007, Archon terminated the tenancy of artists and small businesses in the Melcher Street buildings. Nearly two years ago, artists in 327 Summer St. were evicted, said Burbidge.

Though less than ideal, the short-term deal was the best the city could come up with, said Shen. "Two years is better than nothing at all." Studios will be rented at $9 per square foot, a rate comparable to what most are now paying, he added.

Shen said the city plans to eventually acquire 327 Summer St. from Archon and convert it into permanent live/work space for artists but conceded that project wouldn't be ready by the time leases for the artists expire in two years because the city doesn't have the money available yet.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

BRA Board Approvals on Melcher and Summer Projects

In spite of significant concerns from residents expressed last Spring and at the recent community meeting, the BRA Board unanimously approved motions on the 49-63 Melcher and 316-322 Summer projects at their board meeting. The specific items were:

Request authorization to approve a Development Plan for 49, 51, 63 Melcher Street within Planned Development Area No. 69, South Boston/The 100 Acres, consisting of office and retail space; to issue a Scoping Determination waiving further review of the Article 80 process; to issue a Certification of Compliance and a Certification of Consistency upon successful completion of the Article 80 process; to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding; and to petition the Zoning Commission for approval of the proposed PDA Plan.

Request authorization to issue a Determination waiving further review of the Article 80 process for the construction of office, retail and restaurant space located at 316-322 Summer Street; to issue a Certificate of Compliance upon successful completion of the Article 80 process; to enter into a Development Impact Project Agreement; and to recommend approval with proviso, subject to design review, to the Board of Appeal for the various variances and conditional uses within the M-4 South Boston IPOD, Fort Point Waterfront, Groundwater Conservation Overlay District.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Herald Article on BRA Meeting

Fort Point residents reject developers’ office plans
By Thomas Grillo | Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The city’s chief planner and a pair of developers faced an angry crowd in Fort Point last night as a proposal to turn five vacant buildings into offices was rejected by the neighborhood.

In an emotionally charged session, a standing room only crowd criticized the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and the Archon Group for abandoning a decade of planning to create a mixed-use district.

“You lied to us,” said artist Claudia Ravaschiere to the Archon representative. “You talked about doing residential, but you have not kept one promise to this community. To you it’s just real estate, but to us this is our home.”

During the tense meeting, Kairos Shen from the BRA floated a compromise that would allow four-dozen artists to keep their leases in the South Boston district until 2010. In return, Lincoln Property Co. can turn a pair of vacant warehouses at 316-322 Summer St. into office space and Archon could proceed with an office project at 49-63 Melcher St.

But residents, including many artists, said the proposal was a bad deal for the city.

“For the BRA to offer this deal to artists who are losing their space at the 11th hour is cynical and divisive,” said Steven Hollinger, a member of the Seaport Alliance for Neighborhood Design.

John Matteson, Archon’s regional director, defended his firm’s actions saying they acquired 17 commercial buildings where the average occupancy rate was about 25 percent. Following major renovations and leasing, the improved properties were later sold, he said.

Valerie Burns, a longtime Fort Point resident, said both projects are unchanged from previous community meetings. “The neighborhood was absolutely unified in opposing these projects and now you come back to us with the same project only with a commitment of a temporary relocation for a small number of artists,” she said. “This is a case of the BRA supporting the developer over the wishes of the neighborhood.”

Shen said he thought the plan that would save some artists workspace for two years and get a pair of projects moving was worthy of discussion. But he acknowledged the mistrust between the parties.

“I know our plan is flawed,” said Shen. “But I still think it’s a good plan.”
Article URL:

Notes From Last Night's BRA Meeting on

  • Representatives from the proposed 316-322 Summer St. and 49/51/63 Melcher St. projects presented overviews of the projects. In spite of both projects receiving very strong criticism from the neighborhood last Spring, both were unchanged.
  • Residents reiterated concerns over both projects as well as the lack of residential development, artist housing and work spaces, open spaces, and general progress towards the vision of a mixed-use neighborhood.
  • FPAC approached the Mayor and the BRA a couple of weeks ago trying to get something for the artists loosing their leases in those buildings. As a response to this, the BRA has been working with Archon to get $600k allocated to create studio space for a small group (20-40?) of arists in 319 A St. rear for two years. The $600k will come out of linkage money and will pay for the conversion.

My rough, incomplete notes (if you have corrections/additions, mail them to me at:

BRA Community Meeting
316-322 Summer St. and 49/51/63 Melcher st.

Kairos Shen, Chief Planner, BRA, spoke first. He said that the city has been working with Archon to secure 319 A St. rear to relocate artists displaced from the Archon space to that building for 2 years at rents of $9 / square foot. And, hopefully, they will be able to get Archon to extend leases of those artists for their existing space until 319 is built out.

The BRA has been talking to Archon about deeding a building to the city a la the Midway Studios project. 327 Summer St. is the building they're looking at (~47K sqft or about 40 units). Linkage payments from the district would be used to pay for the buildout.

On Thursday, there's a public BRA hearing on 316-322 Summer and 49/51/63 Melcher. He recognizes that at the last public meeting, there were significant community concerns about a number of issues with the project.

Kairos also said that talks had begun in doing the engineering work behind the streets and open spaces for the 100 Acres plan.

The team for 49/51/63 Melcher St. then spoke and presented the same project shown last Spring, which is still office space with first floor retail and involves a large rooftop addition and a filling in of the notches of the building on Necco St. My notes from the Spring meeting are in this post.

The team for 316-322 Summer St. then presented their project which was also unchanged since last Spring and, like the Melcher St. project, is office space with a significant rooftop addition.

The community then asked questions. The concerns raised included:

  • The BRA is putting the artists who would get space at 319 A in a tough position (essentially buying their support for the development project... and buying it cheaply). Some residents called it cynical and divisive of the BRA to do this. Kairos responded that he made it clear to everyone that no one was asking them to automatically support the project. He also said that he had not initiated the talks. A month and half ago, he had assumed that a solution wouldn't be found to the artist leases, but that FPAC had initiated the talks at the 11th hour through the mayor and the BRA and that that is why the BRA explored it this late in the game.

  • The Summer St. project was granted a rooftop addition as part of a residential project. The addition is worth many millions of dollars ($18 million was thrown out; the developer said it was a lot less.. probably $4 million). Now that it's office space, they should not automatically still get to keep it.

  • The Melcher St. project is the first under the 100 Acres plan and it's setting a bad precedent by allowing the plan's development to be front-loaded with additions and office space build-outs happening first and residential, civic, and open spaces being put off (which jeopardizes their happening at all).

  • A representative from Studio Soto (which was evicted from Melcher St in the past year) asked to be included in the lease negotiations. Archon said they'd look into it, but the leases would first go to those with existing space.

  • A representative from them electrical workers union voiced his support for doing the project for the jobs it would create.

  • A common theme expressed by a number of residents was that people are angry that while, large visions of a mixed-use neighborhood have presented by the BRA and developers like Goldman, the reality has been that the development has been mainly office space with some retail, there has been little progress on open spaces, and that 100s of artists and local businesses have been forced out of the neighborhood. People are tired of seeing developers get favorable concessions from the BRA and little progress being made towards the building of a real neighborhood.