At a municipal harbor planning meeting this week, the Boston Redevelopment Authority presented the results of its shadow and open space study regarding the proposed twin towers of developer Don Chiofaro at the Harbor Garage site. The BRA’s study was conducted by consultant Utile Inc., concluding:
…. the proposed towers – measuring 615 feet and 538 feet, respectively – would cast considerable shadows along the Greenway and in the area around the New England Aquarium during “outdoor months” when late afternoon daylight is still present and prior to the end of daylight savings time.
The BRA uses October 23rd as a benchmark date for shadows because there is still outdoor activity and the sun can have a much desired warming effect as the weather cools in the late afternoon.
Current zoning is 155 feet for the Harbor Garage site. In 2010, the BRA approved a 200 foot limit as part of its Greenway District Planning Study. The current municipal harbor planning process is intended to codify (or adjust) such guidelines to create definitive zoning for the area surrounding the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway parks that were created by the Big Dig.
Despite the shadowing, the Greenway Conservancy wrote a letter of support for advancing the Chiofaro project. Issued this week, the letter says:
The Conservancy supports replacing the garage with a signature multi-use development which would open connections to the harbor and reimagine a dynamic four season public realm. This is an opportunity that should be embraced now. … We believe the current proposal warrants being advanced into the next phase of design development and environmental review.
For open space, Chiofaro has proposed a glass atrium between the two towers that would contain retail stores, restaurants and host public events. The State’s Chapter 91 law for the waterfront requires 50% of open space for the new development. Proponents were hopeful the atrium would help that cause. But, regulators are defining open space as “clear to the sky” resulting in “0% of the proposed development is open space,” according to the BRA/Utile presentation. Off-site open space approaches have been allowed in the past by creating public benefits elsewhere. Along those lines, the Chiofaro Company has discussed renovating the BRA parking lot in front of the Chart House and the expanse at the entrance of the New England Aquarium. As stated in its release:
The BRA has signaled a willingness to consider proposals that differ from current height guidelines for the site – set at 200 feet – if open space and waterfront access requirements are satisfied. With its proximity to the Greenway and the waterfront, the Harbor Garage site has great potential to be an iconic destination. The success of any project at that site will hinge on a constructive dialogue with the community and a multi-step review process that is responsive to local and state regulations. Mr. Chiofaro has not yet filed formal plans to begin the Article 80 development review process for his proposal.