The North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) issued conditional support for the first phase of the proposed Boston Garden Project in an 8-page comment letter to the Boston Redevelopment Authority.
Phase I of The Boston Garden Project will go far toward reaching the goals along the Causeway Street corridor. Phase I should move forward through public review and eventual approval but only with the infrastructure and mitigation measures necessary to avoid serious impacts.
The Boston Garden Project, Phase I, consists of 235,000 square feet of retail space, 142,000 square feet of office space, a hotel tower (350-foot high) below grade parking and a 40,000 square foot expansion of the TD Garden. Subsequent phases would also include a 600-foot tall residential tower with about 500 units and an office tower (420-foot high). Developers Boston Properties and Delaware North Companies have talked about potentially including a supermarket as part of the retail space. (See the developer’s submitted documents on the Boston Garden Project at the BRA website.)
The Boston Garden Project is scheduled for consideration at the BRA Board in a series of accelerated reviews before the end of Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s term in January 2014.
The NEWRA letter is organized around several specific topics and concerns. A few excerpts are noted here:
The Boston Garden project by itself will cause serious additional traffic impacts and certainly more so with the other major projects already in construction or planned in the immediate area.” (For context, see also NEWRA’s map and table describing the 10 major development projects in the Haymarket / North Station area.) A comprehensive traffic analysis is advised to avoid … the same serious problems that now exist in the South Boston Seaport (Innovation) District…
The Boston Garden Project and other area projects will worsen already difficult conditions getting onto MBTA Orange Line and Green Line cars …
The Boston Garden Project sets the goal and makes the promise of reconnecting the historical neighborhood of Beacon Hill, West End and North End. … Phase I of the project and its retail component carry the greatest promise to this end, but Phase I must include retail establishments that are necessary attributes of modern urban neighborhoods, most especially a full-service, reasonably priced supermarket.
NEWRA supports only on-site compliance with the affordable housing requirement. We must add that while a certain small number of affordable housing units are typically included in large development projects, our entire neighborhood of greater than 10,000 population has become unaffordable for many over the last two decades.
We do not understand how a major development project that proposes a significant increase in residential and daytime populations can be approved without a public open space or open space improvement component.
Phasing Article 80 Review and Approvals
NEWRA believes there is no reason or rationale for the BRA’s consideration to continue the Article 80 review towards an approval of the full-build proposal (beyond Phase I). Putting off the approvals of future phases will also allow the potential impacts to be evaluated with the benefit of knowing so much more about the urban condition of the area as the many projects already in the works are completed.
Construction Impacts and Sequencing
The Proponent optimistically plans to build Phase I of the project in the same near-term period (2014-2017) that construction is planned for the later work on the Nashua Street Residences, the remaining two Bulfinch Triangle redevelopment projects (The Merano and One Canal), the Haymarket Hotel at Parcel 9, and the first phases of the Government Center Garage project. … The Project Impact Report should determine whether it is feasible to construct Phase I on this schedule without serious cumulative impacts, including noise, air quality degradation and traffic.
Critical Public Infrastructure Needs
… have gone unattended for decades. These include the reconstruction of the Charlestown/North Washington Street Bridge and Keanye Square, as well as what we believe to be critically needed replacement or repair of gas lines in Keaney Square and other areas of the North End, which have noticeably been leaking for decades.
Development without Planning Invites Disaster
A longstanding concern from NEWRA regarding long-term planning (or lack thereof) is reiterated in the Boston Garden Project letter:
In closing, we must once again raise our concern that the BRA has never brought to the North End / Waterfront community or, apparently any other community, its overall plan to transform the Government Center, Haymarket and North Station areas. … NEWRA is opposed to the concept of building out … (these) … areas with towers hundreds of feet high. Bigger is not necessarily better for Boston. It is the neighborhoods that make this city great. … The BRA has recently stated that such planning, generally, is unnecessary because the BRA knows how to develop. That is no assurance, and we disagree. Planning creates development opportunities and public expectations. Development without planning risks disaster. We remain concerned.
The letter is signed by NEWRA President, Jim Salini. Significant authorship is also attributable to David Kubiak and Victor Brogna, co-chairs of the NEWRA Zoning, Licensing and Construction Committee.
More comment letters (pdf format):
- Downtown North Comment Letter
- West End Place
- West End Community Center
- West End Museum
- West End Civic Association
- Supermarket Committee
- UNITE HERE, Local 26