The Boston Redevelopment Authority and its consultants presented a revised proposal for the Marriott Long Wharf hotel at this week’s meeting of the Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Planning Committee.
The plan would increase the width of the Marriott Long Wharf building by about 20 feet on both the north and the south side of the building and would expand the 2nd floor outdoor restaurant on the eastern harbor side. A new retail edge would be created relating the Harborwalk and access to ferries. The indoor / outdoor path through the N-S sides of the building would be better defined. The linear walkway along the sides would improve the connection from the Rose Kennedy Greenway to Long Wharf. In addition, the Atlantic Ave. facade would have added retail and architectural improvements.
Advisory committee members expressed some confusion about the lack of connection between the specifics of the presentation and the overall vision the planning process has tasked them with. While the submitted plan included several details, it did not address how it will fit into overall context of the MHP that the committee is supposed to comment on. Several members requested additional information and further impact studies. They asked for better and more visuals of how the proposed building will look like and the impact of the expansion on the surrounding area, including the Harborwalk on the north and the BHC terminal on the south side.
In response, the BRA assured the committee that in addition to dealing with the specifics of each developer’s proposals, the overall vision, mandated by the state’s Chapter 91 requirements is also considered in the draft plan the BRA is working towards.
During the public comments section of the meeting several local residents, shared their opinions.
Sy Mintz, a Folio resident, provided historical perspective of the Marriott building and presented his own recommendations for changes to the design that would accommodate a better pedestrian access to the surrounding area. By moving the escalators in the entrance area, the public would be able to move more freely between the front of the building and the Christopher Columbus Park.
Todd Lee, a Harbor Towers resident voiced his concerns about climate impact on the building. He reminded the participants of the already difficult situation the area is experiencing when particularly large and more frequent storm surges happen.
Other residents were concerned about the increased flow of people throughout the area which, as they have mentioned, already struggles with limited space. The outdoor seating space for Legal Seafoods was singled out by some as one of the factors that overcrowding is already an issue at this location.
One observant commenter has noted that the time of these MHP meetings is particularly unfortunate, given that the 3PM-5PM timeframe does not allow many of the interested members of the public to attend. BRA has explained that this is a “historical” inconvenience and was noncommittal on changing the time of the meetings. The meeting ended early due to the lack of any further comments and questions.
When asked, Chris Busch, Senior Waterfront Planner at the BRA, was hopeful that progress is being made towards completing the requirements for the Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Plan (MHP). The timetable includes a draft plan by January 2015 and a final plan by September or October 2015. The state’s review of the final plan will begin at that time. Busch said that “we are moving in a direction where the state can make a decision based on these recommendations.”
The presentation can be viewed on the BRA’s planning project website (large download).