The Government Center Garage Impact Advisory Group (IAG) threw a wrench into the existing developer-led process by insisting that they set the agenda from this point. The turning of the tables happened at last week’s public meeting held at City Hall where a letter from the IAG to the BRA was presented. The group hopes this will result in a more agreeable project plan instead of the tower-heavy, dense office park proposed by developer/owner of the garage, Raymond Group. The IAG is a citizen advisory body guided by the BRA and made up of 12 residents and interested parties from three abutting neighborhoods: West End, Beacon Hill and the North End. Members of the IAG are recommended by local politicians and appointed by the Mayor.
Several members of the IAG voiced the need for less review of the developer’s plan and more public discussion of the possibilities. Some did not think that future meetings would be productive unless the process is substantially revised. Raymond has not updated his development plan in over a year so it is not clear what IAG comments have been incorporated into the design.
To show their combined resolve, the IAG issued a formal letter as read at the meeting by Bob O’Brien of the West End/Downtown North Association.
Here is a partial list of issues raised in the IAG’s letter:
- Proposed height and density – IAG strongly objects to what has been proposed.
- Economic justification – What are the alternatives?
- Zoning Compliant Options – Why are these not being considered more thoroughly?
- Architectural details are too vague.
- District Master Plan – Is this development going to be a focal point or the standard of future development in the area?
- Where and why does this project fall within the Greenway District Planning Study?
- Public Elementary School option – The IAG wishes to discuss this option.
Mark Paul, President of the North End/Waterfront Residents’ Association, stated that bringing an office park and expanding the Financial District to the edge of three residential neighborhoods was unacceptable.
Ted Raymond asked whether the IAG wants anything built instead of the garage. Leaving the garage “as is” remains an option for the developer. There was general agreement that some type of mixed use development was desirable, but not millions of office square footage. The IAG also questioned why they are being asked to review a plan that includes BRA/City-owned land when it is unclear if this can be part of the redevelopment. There were also comments made that the current process was unduly repetitive and not fair to the IAG nor the developer.
With the three neighborhoods joining forces, it was suggested that the IAG work with the developer on a new plan. The group wishes to avoid working backward from a huge monster plan back to something agreeable. Many in the room expressed concern that this redevelopment project could set the design precedents for future development in all three abutting neighborhoods.