The crowd was large and restless for this long-awaited meeting, but the Boston Redevelopment Authority managed to strike a balance that resulted in more compliments than criticisms toward its guidelines for up to 19 new development projects along the Rose Kennedy Greenway.  As one audience member appreciated, “this is the first meeting that is more about planning than development.” The BRA said they will take a more “conservative view” with lower heights and density in what could eventually become zoning along the parks corridor. The meeting was held on Thursday, March 18th at City Hall and was the sixth of seven public meetings. Importantly, it was the firsta time that the BRA showed its hand.

Regarding the Harbor Garage Redevelopment, Kairos Shen, the City’s chief planner, said he would set a general height limit of 200’ for the Harbor Garage site. While this is 45’ higher than current zoning, it is well below the 625’ high aspirations of owner Don Chiofaro for his proposed towers. Chiofaro was in attendance with several labor and affiliated supporters that argued for more height and density. Chiofaro believes that anything under 625 feet is not economically feasible and risks having the garage “as-is” for the foreseeable future. The gargage generates a profit of $8.5 million per year. The BRA’s Shen responded that while a 200’ development may not make sense today, things can change in the future. He used the Rowes Wharf project as an example of a successful development the BRA would like to see on the site of the Harbor Garage. The “City versus Chiofaro” drama escalated today with Chiofaro’s comments in this Globe article. The Mayor took to the airwaves with these comments on WBZ radio. According to the Herald, the Mayor rejected Chiofaro’s offer of $50 million to the City in exchange for permission to build the towers.

The BRA’s general thinking is that the water/harbor side of the Greenway should have lower heights than the interior/city side. The slide below captures the height ranges expected along the Greenway corridor.

GDPS7HeightChangesGeneral height intentions for Greenway districts by the City’s Boston Redevelopment Authority. Note the lower height areas include the North End/Waterfront whereas the taller tower sites are interior to the city. (Click image to enlarge).

Most of the rationale behind the height guidelines is coming from shadow and wind studies that showed significant shadowing with larger buildings on the harbor side of the Greenway parks. The Richardson site (Financial District) and Government Center Garage site are still set for 600’, however, as the BRA said they did not significatnly shadow the Greenway. However, Shen indicated that the far side of the Government Center Garage site may be separated from these guidelines since it is quite distinct from the Greenway.

For the North End side of the Greenway, it appears the 55’ neighborhood precedent will continue as shown in the slide below. Note the new development that could appear along the length of Cross Street, as well as the building on the Fulton St. parking lot (Parcel 11B).

GDPS7NorthEndCrossStNorth End along Cross Street showing proposed guidelines for new development. Notice the 55 foot height precedent of the neighborhood persists. (Click image to enlarge.)

The Market District is across the North End, on the Haymarket side of the Greenway. Heights are also in the 55 foot range with the exception of the Dock Square Garage site. This area includes Parcel 9 which continues to be one of the sites due for immediate development.

GDPS7MarketDistrictMarket District Scenario including Parcel 9 (click image to enlarge)

The meeting also included an economic value presentation on how the Greenway has impacted commercial and residential values in the Greenway district versus the overall business district. The short answer is, “not much.” There was also significant discussion on “activating” the Greenway with better crossroads, transportation and improved “edges.” More on these issues in a future post.

GDPS7GuidelinesSummSource: Boston Redevelopment Authority, City of Boston

The seventh (and last?) Greenway District Planning Study meeting will be on Thursday, April 29 where draft guidelines will be presented in more detail. A 30-day comment period will follow.

Click here to view the BRA’s complete slide presentation.

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