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Developer rendering of 88NOWA hotel to right of in-progress Murano development

Community members voiced strong opposition at a Wednesday night meeting regarding a proposal for a 147 foot high (before roof mechanicals) hotel project in the West End’s Bulfinch Triangle on North Washington Street adjacent to the North End.

Dubbed the “skinny hotel” or “88NOWA”, the project would be at 88 N. Washington Street at the corner of Valenti Way. The proposal includes construction of a new 39,999 gross square foot structure with a 13 level, 74 key hotel on the 2,159 sf parcel.

Proponents attending the meeting were property owner Thomas McKay, development consultant Fred Mannix of Portland Building Associates and Stefan Vogelmann of CBT Architects. Hosting the meeting was the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services.  The project is under “Article 80 Small Project Review” by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, although the BRA was not at the meeting (see the end of this post for a follow-up from the BRA).

Neighbors and community members at the Nazzaro Center listened to the proposed 88NOWA hotel project (NEWF photo)

Proponents emphasized the benefits of replacing the corner parking lot eyesore at the site which is adjacent to the 160 foot high Murano building currently under construction. On the other side of the location, is 90 N. Washington Street where Ward 8 restaurant is located on the ground floor. Across from the Murano and proposed 88NOWA project is expected to be a small park called Valenti Square.

Among the 30-odd attendees, residents living on N. Washington Street and at the Strada building on Causeway Street expressed their concerns that the height exceeds zoning of 100 feet in the Bulfinch Triangle.  At 147 feet (before 10-15 feet in mechanicals) the 88NOWA hotel will be slightly below that of the neighboring Murano which is 160 feet. Neighbors noted that the 100 feet limit has been repeatedly exceeded by the ongoing developments in the area.

“It’s frankly obnoxious,” said a board member from the Strada building where views of the Custom House and the downtown skyline would be lost. “We’re tired of this after having the Murano shoved down our throat. It’s 60 feet too tall,” he added vowing to use the legal system to fight the project.

NorthEndWaterfront 2016-05-12 at 6.52.59 AM
88NOWA rendering next to Murano development that is under construction (BRA filing)

The no-frills, 13-floor hotel was said to serve the $180/night price point and with a small cafe on the 2nd floor. Most floors will have 5 micro-rooms, about 200 square feet with one queen bed.

Other non-abutter community members cited general traffic/parking concerns, violation of existing zoning and questioned the need for another hotel project in the neighborhood. “Even before the loss of sight corridors and inappropriate density, the last thing we need is another hotel,” said a North Street resident. Another North End resident took issue with how the 88NOWA proposal extends into the existing public sidewalk space and narrows access at the intersection of Valenti Way and N. Washington Street.

88NOWA signage looking from N. Washington Street near the intersection of Medford Street. (BRA filing)

Host Maria Lanza from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services said a North Station area traffic study is expected to be released in the coming weeks. The first of its kind analysis of transportation issues in the area is being funded by developers in the West End area.

The BRA is expected to host a public meeting as part of its Small Project Review, although the extended process that comes with large Project Notification Form, is not required. Interested parties can submit comments to the Mayor’s Office through Maria Lanza (maria.lanza@boston.gov) and to Phil Cohen, BRA Project Manager (phil.cohen@boston.gov).

May 17, 2016 update from BRA Project Manager, Phil Cohen:

“The 88 North Washington development team filed a Small Project Review Application with the BRA on March 30, 2016 which opened a public comment period.  In light of the fact that we have not held a BRA-sponsored community meeting, the comment period will be extended until at least June 30, 2016. The BRA is committed to listening to the community and plans to host an official public meeting once the development team has completed preliminary outreach.”

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16 COMMENTS

  1. Stand strong!! Hopefully your objections will make some difference.

    Too often the city oks developments that exceed the existing zoning. Why have zoning if it is always ignored? This is an insult to the people who live here.

    Yesterday I attended a Municipal Harbor Plan meeting that will allow a massive, dense building in the place of the Harbor Garage. It would tower over Harbor Towers.
    The reason Harbor Towers is so tall and out of place on the waterfront is because many years ago the city gave in to a developer. Why repeat this mistake in our neighborhoods?

    The city repeatedly shows that the developers are more important than the residents of Boston.

  2. I’ve always thought that Zoning laws were set as a point of negotiation. “You can only build so high unless you fund a park” “You can only have this Density if you provide x # of affordable Units” “You can have less parking if you improve ‘this’ public infrastructure.”

    This building is lower than the one under construction directly adjacent to it, and might not make all that much visual impact, but the neighborhood should use the Zoning Variance to get something out of it!! Additional funding for the Greenway, Donation to that new Eliot School project, something else the community decides on. IF the city’s going to green light projects that exceed zoning, at least get something for it.

  3. I like the project and will gladly use the hotel when friends and family visit me in the North End. That parcel is currently a waste of space, so I’m excited to see something built there. Why does it seem like the residents of Strada complain about everything? You live in a growing city with construction all around, so of course your views are going to change. If you don’t like it, sell your expensive luxury condo and buy somewhere else. As other buildings go up in the city, your view of the custom house could be lost as well.

    • you would be upset if your views were being taken away… their property values will go down too, I don’t blame them for being upset…

      • Let’s at least be honest here. Property values will not be going down any time soon. And if they do, it won’t be because of new development in the area. What really gets me is residents of the equally tall Strada building complaining about lost views. It’s the same old attitude of “I’ve got mine, screw everyone else” that is a cancer in this city. Sure, they have a right to be upset – but that’s life. The grievances of a small number of people with entitlement issues should not trump the needs of the city as a whole. The city needs more hotel rooms – that is a fact.

        • You don’t have to be a real estate agent to know that looking at a hotel instead of down the greenway will dramatically affect the property value. You would be upset too.

  4. Guys, lighten up. You live in a city and Boston is in desperate need of more housing and hotels. The Merano building is going up and this small parcel will only be an eyesore. You are accomplishing nothing by fighting it. It will clean up the neighborhood! Respectfully, if you don’t want development, don’t live in a major city.

  5. Brad,
    North Enders aren’t against developing underutilized spaces when the proposal is thoughtful and appropriate, provides some community benefit to the neighborhood, and conforms with exisiting zoning regulations. This project is none of these things. You are right about the desperate need for (affordable) housing, but the City has more than doubled the number of hotel rooms over the last decade, with many of these zoning busting hotel projects already planned for our neighborhood (Boston Garden, Haymarket, South Quincy Market, Lewis Wharf). The traffic congestion in this area is already horendous and getting worse evevry day with the addition of each new high rise. The last thing we need at this location is another hotel!

  6. Why do people support giving free money to billionaire developers so they can profit by breaking zoning laws.

    Zoning is 100 feet here and that was set fairly recently. So why is a developer allowed to go to 160 feet? Because someone else did it doesn’t make it right.

    Residents, no matter who they are, should be able to live without fear that a well-connected developer is going to hurt them because the city gives out zoning variances like candy. This doesn’t happen in other cities. Variances need to prove hardship. There is no hardship here and the last thing that area needs is a micro-hotel.

    Courts have long upheld that light, air and even views around a property are rights held by the property owner. Developers who take those away should pay damages or be prevented from doing so in the first place.

    • Johnny Jimbob: In principle, I agree with you. Have you ever lived in NYC? You can’t imagine property owners who have lost views, space and air due to new construction. I know, I lived there. Light, air and views are not rights of property owners. It is a sad situation…..a family who has lived for years in their home, and oops….there goes another high rise.

  7. Prior to any of the parcels in the Bulfinch Triangle going out to bid to developers, a Downtown North Association Development Task Force worked with the MA DoT (the MBTA and Mass Highway at the time), city agencies, and interested developers to set guidelines for these parcels. This task force was made up of residents from the West End and the North End as well as others from the business community and city/state agencies. The guidelines that were developed allowed for taller buildings in this part of the Bulfinch Triangle as long as there was a step back above a certain height. Having these guidelines established prior to the parcels going out to bid enabled developers to design their projects accordingly and saved time in the review process.

    (For those who do not know, the Bulfinch Triangle is actually a part of the West End not the North End. Buildings in the Triangle area are zoned as of right at about 155 feet.)

  8. Just because adjacent buildings that are on Big Dig parcels received planned-for zoning variances to incentivize building on difficult and expensive sites, doesn’t mean this property should get the same right !

    Combined as it does abutting the Murano project this creates a wall – a total view corridor blocking effect so residents on one side no longer see the iconic Zakim Bridge and residents on the other side no longer see the iconic Custom House Tower.

    It’s absurdly proportioned for the tiny parcel.

    Also there is no pull in for drop off or taxi’s so they are just going to block a lane in a VERY busy intersection ? How does that constitute a plan ?

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