Community Real Estate

NEWRA Opposes Harbor Garage Proposal

Proposed Towers & Skyframe Imposed on Boston Skyline
Proposed Towers & Skyframe Imposed on Boston Skyline

In a special meeting, the North End/Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) approved a letter to public officials that “strongly opposes the project.” NEWRA believes “the project is too massive and totally out-of-scale for this waterfront site.” After a line-by-line editing of the 5-page letter, NEWRA members overwhelmingly approved the letter which will be available for submittal and posting once edits are incorporated.

The area is currently zoned for 125 feet in height whereas the developer Chiofaro proposes two towers up to 690 feet with a 770 foot skyframe connecting the buildings. The letter opposes the plan for very little open and public space to the waterfront area. NEWRA points out that the proposed development would largely privatize a site that sits on the recently completed Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway funded by over $15 billion in taxpayer dollars. In addition, many of the harbor and transportation services in the area have been created with public funds. The garage itself also serves a public purpose.

The NEWRA letter does not take a stand as to whether any project would be preferable to the existing garage, but instead focuses on opposing the towers presented in the Chiofaro proposal. Some residents in attendence believe a smaller scale project could be an improvement over the existing garage.

Residents believe the project would jeopardize the character of the Boston’s waterfront and is more similar to the landscape of the Financial District area. Harbor Towers residents in attendance also handed out this 1-page summary of issues against the project. In addition to height violations, the residents note that city zoning allows for 4.0 square feet of building per square foot of site area. Chiofaro is proposing a 26.2 ratio that is extremely dense. Shadow impacts would be severe and traffic congestion would increase dramatically, according to residents. Harbor Towers units would have largely blocked views and reduced daylight. Residents would also be subjected to 5-7 years of construction.

The special meeting was held June 23rd after its regular committee meeting for Zoning, Licensing & Construction (ZLC) issues. Public comments on the proposal are due to the BRA and the State Executive Office of Environmental Affairs by July 6, 2009.

ZLC Committee co-chair, David Kubiak, ran the special meeting that was well-attended by abutting residents to the Harbor Garage as well as a diverse group of North End residents. Kubiak mentioned that NEWRA’s resources are getting stretched with all these major projects including the Harbor Garage, Government Center Garage, Greenway and Parcel 9, not to mention the smaller development within the North End/Waterfront neighborhood. He encourages members to “pick a project” and go to the public meetings to stay on top of development issues.

Proposed Towers For Harbor Garage Site
Proposed Towers For Harbor Garage Site

The current status of the Harbor Garage Redevelopment project is that developer Chiofaro has filed only “general” plans through the PNF (Project Notification Form) and ENF (Environmental Notification Form). These documents are available on NEWRA’s special Harbor Garage project webpage here. The scoping documents are only the beginning of the process. NEWRA believes that Chiofaro has not spent enough time with the neighborhood and the PNF/ENF forms are vaguely completed. Based on past history, the MEPA Secretary could be more effective in forming this project than the BRA. This was the case regarding potential development at 585 Commercial Street. Kubiak also reminded members that Battery Wharf initially requested 80 feet and through NEWRA’s involvement with public officials, it was kept to the neighborhood’s 55 foot zoning limit. NEWRA past president, Victor Brogna, is officially representing NEWRA on Harbor Garage Impact Advisory Group.

NEWRA’s covered geographical area includes the Harbor Garage since it’s by-laws indicate the North End/Waterfront technically extends to 20 Rowes Wharf. However, the dividing line between the North End Waterfront & Downtown Waterfront is on the side of the Marriott Hotel Long Wharf by 255 State Street as defined by City documents.


Below is the description & comment information provided by NEWRA, along with the contact information for public comments. More information can be found at

The owner/developer of the Harbor Garage, Chiofaro Company has filed project plans with the BRA and the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs’ MEPA Unit to replace the existing garage next to the New England Aquarium with a large, mixed use development. The existing garage is bounded by Atlantic Avenue, Milk Street, and East India Row, and sits between the New England Aquarium and Harbor Towers.

The developer’s plans include a 40-story office tower of approximately 560 feet in height, and a 59-story, 690-foot high residential and hotel tower. A 770-foot “sky frame” is proposed to connect the two towers and provide a sky-line visual and architectural link between the two buildings. The 1.5 million-square-foot project consists of 860,000 square feet (sf) of office space, 220,000 sf of luxury condominium space, and a 300,000-sf hotel with an additional 50,000 sf of hotel function space and amenities. Those elements will sit above a 70,000-sf retail podium that will connect the proposed buildings. A 1,200–1,400-space parking garage and service docks will be located below grade.

Public comments on the project will be accepted by the BRA and the MEPA Unit until July 6, 2009. Written comments should be sent to the following:

MAIL TO: Rodney Sinclair, Project Manager
Boston Redevelopment Authority
One City Hall Square, 9th Floor
Boston, Ma 02201
FAX TO: 617-742-7783

Comments should be also be sent to:
MAIL TO: Secretary Ian A. Bowles
EOEA, Attn: MEPA Office
Aisling Eglington, EOEA No. 14411
100 Cambridge St, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114
FAX TO: 617-626-1181