The expanding relationship between developer Donald Chiofaro and the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy has created the perception of a quid pro quo between the two organizations.
First, the Conservancy gets posh office space for its headquarters in Chiofaro’s International Place either for free or at a deeply discounted cost. Then in mid-July, the Conservancy helped the developer with his controversal campaign to redevelop the Harbor Garage by renting out the Greenway parks to promote the plan. Is the Conservancy allowing Chiofaro to buy public support for his own special interests?
“Lease terms are essentially pro bono” for the Conservancy to lease 5,800 square feet at Chiofaro’s International Place according to this press release. The original lease was set to expire in December 2008, although the ongoing pro bono lease was disclosed at a recent public meeting between the Conservancy and the Greenway Leadership Council. If you have been in International Place, it is truly prime office space with marble lobbies and a food court with rainforest fountains. It leases its posh space to the toniest of Boston’s elite companies, including many hedge funds. International Place is clearly is among the most desirable office space in the Financial District if not the entire city.
No independent observer would believe that Chiofaro is donating this expensive space to the Conservancy without expecting something in return. This ‘something’ could be the public use of the Greenway parks which appear to be at Chiofaro’s disposal. While the Conservancy is a private, non-profit organization, its mission is to be the ‘steward of the parks on behalf of the public’, according to its website. Can it do this while accepting favors from for-profit developers?
With International Place located diagonally across the Greenway from the Harbor Garage, will the Conservancy be pressured to cede those Wharf District parks to the developer away from public use? There is no doubt that the strips of green parkland along Atlantic Avenue have already greatly increased the value of Chiofaro’s properties on both sides. Based on City and State reactions, it looks like Chiofaro’s 700 foot high towers are likely to be scaled down, but the Boston Redevelopment Authority is likely to eventually support some new development at the Harbor Garage site. The Greenway could become the peanut butter of Chiofaro’s tower sandwich.
This blog has been skeptical of the Conservancy’s Event Guidelines that allow for large, sponsored events on the Greenway parks. Conservancy officials have asked the neighborhoods to “trust them” to choose appropriate events. This trust has been broken with one of its first large events being an advertisement for a developer with the active participation of Conservancy officials at the event.
The cleanest way to rectify this conflict of interest is for the Conservancy to vacate the Chiofaro offices at International Place and stop taking gifts from the developer. The Conservancy must also remain independent of competing interests for development along the Greenway, and certainly should not be renting out the parks for promotional events intended to advertise a special interest. The Greenway Leadership Council, as the governing body over the Conservancy, must also take responsibility for monitoring and correcting these conflicts.