The Boston Redevelopment Authority has finished presenting individual projects for the Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Planning initiative and begins the process of drafting the MHP in consultation with the Advisory Committee.
The committee heard a presentation from Mathew Littell, Utile Inc., about the “guiding principles and guidelines for urban design and planning.” Mr. Littell pointed out that the offsets and substitute provisions has to cover the whole district and offered various strategies on how to achieve that. The draft plan will include considerations for height, density, open space, shadow area and the benefits for the public realm amongst others.
According to Mr. Littell, the shadow studies, specified by the Chapter 91 code are a “convenient and precise tool for measuring the impact of development projects,” it is important to consider other priorities as well. As an example, the presentation showed various views of the Custom House and how it would be visible from those vantage points if the proposed developments would be built. Focusing on the Public Realm requirements of a Harbor Plan, the view of the water from inland is also of specific importance. While it is much harder to quantify a “View” in a plan for development, considerations for the whole district might include important landmarks and the impact new development can or cannot have on them.
Other considerations for the plan might include density requirements for a new building. The lot coverage and the so called Floor Area Ratio (FAR) could also be part of the requirements the committee sets for the area. FARs are also another convenient measurement for the city and the area buildings do have a uniform density in this regard. The zoning code calls for a FAR of 4 and the vast majority of the existing buildings are in or near that requirement. Zoning calls for a maximum height of 155 feet, and all the proposed buildings exceed that height, however. Mr. Little also pointed out that the entire downtown area shows a mix of building heights and it is hard, even for the BRA, to determine a pattern.
In response to the presentation, committee member Vivian Li, president of The Boston Harbor Association (TBHA), expressed her desire to “go to work on the plan and continue our ongoing deliberation.” Other members also stated that the district has “pretty good” qualities in general and certain designated areas might need to be “left alone.” Considering certain special areas are the Long Wharf, which constitutes a third of its space for public access to the water in the district. The plaza behind the Harbor Garage, which is owned by the BRA, might also play a bigger role.
The BRA will draft the plan over the Winter break. The committee and the public will be able to comment on the draft and the discussion will continue on the specifics, in the new year.
Documents, schedules and previous materials can be found on the project’s website. The next meeting is scheduled for December 18th 3pm at Atlantic Wharf (2nd Floor) and it is open to the public.