Video: Faneuil Hall Masterplan Public Meeting, Tuesday, July 7, 2015 (Presentation in beginning, Public comments start at 39:00) Slides can be downloaded here.
Tensions flared on Tuesday night at a public meeting regarding the proposed vision plan by Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. to reconfigure Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market.
The masterplan presented by Ashkenazy focused on infrastructure improvements, including new glass canopies, wayfinding, lighting and “repositioned” eateries that will replace the existing food court inside Quincy Market.
Merchants and tour operators dominated the Q&A period with concerns they are going to be pushed out by a gentrification strategy geared toward “creating a clubhouse for transient residents living downtown in new skinny towers,” as expressed by one commenter. A previous plan for yuppie bars in the food court was ripped up by Ashkenazy executives who said they were “horrified” when an image leaked to the Boston Globe that is not their plan. Still, renderings of a new bar and lounge area were shown to activate the Rotunda area of Quincy Market.
Ashkenazy’s vice-president, Barry Lustig, said a goal of the masterplan is to bring back local Bostonians to Faneuil Hall who largely avoid the tourist-driven destination today. He repeatedly tried to calm anxieties saying that “merchants here today will be here tomorrow.” On the job for three months, new BRA Executive Director Teresa Polhemus spoke at the meeting saying that Mayor Marty Walsh is “committed to keeping the local flavor that exists today.”
Existing merchants, including pushcart vendors, have been fearful by the lack of lease extensions offered by the Ashkenazy. They question whether national chains will be the emphasis, such as Japanese retailer Uniqlo that has taken up residence in the marketplace. Ashkenazy representatives said large chains would be additive to the existing tenants and they are now working toward offering more lease extensions, including some that would reposition merchants into new spaces.
The history and “DNA” of Faneuil Hall was debated as whether the existing tourist and food court offerings would be supplanted by higher priced eateries geared toward downtown residents. Over a dozen tour guides were in attendance defending their businesses, saying the developer should work on “fixing the bathrooms and getting rid of pests” rather than creating upscale amenities.
Carol Troxell of the Faneuil Hall Merchants Association said that lease discussions have improved and the association is optimistic that working with Ashkenazy and the BRA will retain existing venders. Discussions were mentioned to be ongoing with over a dozen existing merchants, including Ames Plow and the Salty Dog.
The hotel proposal was not covered in detail and would be taken up in other meetings, as necessary, according to BRA officials. The general masterplan is not required to go through Article 80 “large project review” and the associated public process. Tuesday’s meeting was held in advance of a July 16th vote by the public plaza property owner, Boston Redevelopment Authority.