There was a bit of déjà vu at this week’s planning meeting, the second of five, regarding the RFP guidelines for the development of Parcels 7 & 9. This meeting reviewed the previous proposals and history of the project. The meeting was conducted by Peter O’Connor (MassDOT), John Romano (MassDOT) and Drew Leff (GLC Development Resources).
Peter O’Connor started the meeting by clarifying that the previous Eastat proposal for housing on Parcel 9 was considered inappropriate by MassDOT, but that does not preclude consideration of housing on the site. He noted that the Haymarket Pushcart Association convinced MassDOT the Eastat proposal was not sufficient given the mix of apartments located above an active food marketplace.
Drew Leff of GLC Development Resources said that MassDOT is seeking proposals that are economically and physically viable. They also seek bids that will be perceived positively by the surrounding community.
The Boston Redevelopment Authority has recently completed planning studies for the Market and Greenway districts. The Market District study recommended that an indoor public market hall be developed on the ground floor of Parcel 7, below the existing garage. The public food market is intended to offer a variety of local foods and products. Parcel 9 is expected to also offer a ground floor market, but the emphasis will not necessarily be local. Rather, the focus will be on fresh foods, such as fish, meats and produce.
In the Greenway District Planning Study, Parcel 9 was recommended to have a height of 55 feet, scaled to the North End buildings. The building on Parcel 7 will stay as is.
Notably, the Parcel 7 garage will continue to be operated by MassDOT and will NOT be part of the development. Only the ground floor market will be included in the RFP.
State Policy Objectives for Parcels 7 & 9
- Support improvement of the City and surrounding neighborhood.
- Activate the Greenway.
- Realize redevelopment as quickly as possible.
Haymarket is expected to continue as it currently exists with storage and trash on Blackstone St., not in Parcel 9. The zoning code includes design guidelines that call for development consistent with surrounding historical structures, such as those on the Blackstone Street block.
According to state officials, Parcel 7’s local food market is intended to complement Haymarket, not compete with it. It is expected that vendors will offer a different type of product. Parcel 7 previously received two bids, one from Winn Development and another from Hersha Group. Winn submitted a bid for office space above a ground floor market. Hersha proposed an extended-stay hotel with a 2-story addition on top and an Italian themed market on the ground floor. Both bids were deemed inadequate and not financially viable.
Officials said that while the ground floor of Parcel 7 is intended to be a public market for local goods, it has not been decided that the designation will go to the Boston Public Market Association, a non-profit, that has expressed deep interest in the site.
Parcel 7 – Why Developers Were Not Designated
- Almost no net revenue
- Poor past performance of one developer (Winn on Filenes)
- Concerns about height with Hersha Group
- Uncertainly about ground floor use execution
Moving to Parcel 9, consultant firm GLC reviewed the four proposals previously submitted. Bids were submitted by:
- The Boston Museum – Boston History Center & Museum, Inc.
- Eastat Reality Capital, LLC – Haymarket Square (housing/apartments)
- The Gutierrez Company (office space)
- DeNormandie Companies – Blackstone Place (office/gallery space)
See this June 2009 post for a full review of the previous proposals.
Parcel 9 – Why Developers Were Not Designated
- lack of concrete proposals in some cases
- concern of larger scale of 2 proposals (over 55 feet)
- lack of financial commitment in some cases (only Eastat ready to go)
- lack of consensus on upper floor uses, housing, office museum
The Haymarket Pushcart Association supported the DeNormandie proposal and convinced MassDOT toward the end of the process that the Eastat housing proposal was not appropriate.
What needs to be done differently?
- Fine line between between acceptable projects and allowing market creativity
- Establish some greater constraints
- Uses – compatibility with surroundings
- Height flexibility
- Reduce uncertainty about Public Market implementation on Parcel 7
- Continue to strongly screen for experience and financial strength
A different aspect of this bidding process is that both parcels are being considered at the same time, although it is likely that there will be two separate designated developers. The advisory committee will tour the area on October 15th. This is not a public tour.
Parking – In answers to questions by Nancy Caruso and Victor Brogna, it was noted that the Parcel 7 parking discounts for neighborhood residents and businesses would continue because MassDOT will continue operating the garage, not the designated developer of the ground floor.
Committee and NEWNC member Ryan Kenny asked what happens if the Public Market fails? There are a lot of food options nearby with Haymarket and a new supermarket expected on Parcels 2 A/B/C. The committee noted that they do not want to have another 10 years of empty space.
The Haymarket Pushcart Association said their vendors should have the option to use outdoor space around Parcel 7. They do not want outside vendors entering the area. There was some discussion about a turf war among merchants. The representative for Faneuil Hall Marketplace thought that more space provides more opportunity for everyone.
Notable comments from the public:
- Members of the Haymarket Pushcart Association continued to express concern regarding housing over the ground floor markets.
- A Beacon Hill resident asked whether “less is more” and could a low-rise, 2 story building work on Parcel 9, protecting the Greenway.
- Developer Phil DeNormandie noted that MassDOT controls the property and is paid by taxpayers. A new Parcel 9 developer should not have to deal with the Haymarket garbage, a costly proposition. He never viewed Eastat as a viable project with housing. He also argues against a non-profit manager due to inefficiency concerns. He urged the committee not too worry about the solvency of the Commonwealth, but rather ask for what they want. He sees the need for a strong, for-profit company on Parcel 9.
Next meeting on October 20th – Tentative agenda
Further discussion of Market Distruct and Public Market
Development feasibility analysis for both parcels
constraints – physical, regulatory, contractual, community concerns
Operatng costs and revenues