Real Estate

Lewis Wharf Hotel Project Starts the Clock With Formal Document Filing

Before a proposal was even filed, plenty of ink was spilled regarding the “fight” over Lewis Wharf and the proposed hotel project by JW Capital Partners and contractor John Moriarty & Associates. Now, there is actually something to talk about with the formal submittal of a Project Notification Form (large PDF). The document kicks off the formal review by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and its public comment period. Before the filing, the BRA hosted two preliminary meetings (see #1 here and #2 here) with its Impact Advisory Group (IAG).

Let’s cover some details of the planned Lewis Wharf project from the PNF filing. The proposal renderings show a completely redeveloped 9-acre property around the existing granite condominium and Pilot House buildings. A new luxury, currently unbranded, hotel extends out into the harbor on two piers with 277 rooms (186,944 sq. ft.).  The hotel will encompass two 55′ high buildings over the existing piling field. A one story, glass-enclosed lobby connector will join the two wings.

The existing surface parking lot on Atlantic Avenue will be replaced by open space over an underground 379-space parking garage.  The entire complex will be surrounded by an 1,800 linear foot Harborwalk, featuring 35′ viewing esplanades at the end of the hotel piers. The property would include 125,082 sq. ft. of outdoor space with a 54,480 sq. ft. park and 3,122 sq. ft. for the Boston Sailing Center that would have 130 marina slips.

The intent is to operate a 4-5 star luxury hotel, but the developer says no specific flag or brand has been determined. The hotel itself will have a ballroom and event spaces similar in scope to the Boston Harbor Hotel for celebrations plus a restaurant, cafe/bar, outdoor dining and shops.

Lewis Wharf Project Rendering from Atlantic Ave. (ART Architects)

As for community benefits, the PNF shows the property surrounded by green space and pedestrian pathways from Atlantic Avenue to the waterfront.

“This is a real park,” said Will Adams of JW Capital in a interview. “The parking lot will be replaced by a 1.25 acre well-maintained park consisting of lawns, trees and benches,” he added. “It’s a blank canvas and we are open to what type of features would best serve the neighborhood.”

“We have heard concerns about noise from abutters so to limit that, we are thinking that programmed space would be in the Water Court area,” said JWCP’s Adams. The Water Court will be the “heart and soul” of the hotel, said Adams, situated on the harborside of the glass lobby connector between the two new buildings and segregated from the surrounding neighbors. It will feature terraced seating areas and curved outdoor steps with social and cafe table space. Adams also said the lounge areas on the roof top of the hotel would be designed to mitigate noise and geared toward view gazing by guests.

The lawn on the South side of the granite condominium building would be similar to what it is today. The pool would be relocated, but remain exclusively for condo residents, not hotel guests.

Aerial of existing property at Lewis Wharf with marked project borders (Image from PNF)

The proponent has intentionally scaled and designed the project to meet current requirements as put forward by city and state regulators. For example, an earlier plan with condos was scrapped because hotel rooms are considered “public” whereas residences are “private.”

The project is set at 55 feet in height, before mechanicals, within current zoning guidelines that were largely set from a early 1990’s Municipal Harborpark Plan (pdf). The developer’s stated case is that “the requirements mandated by the Massachusetts Public Waterfront Act (Chapter 91) and the 1991 Municipal Harbor Plan are the guiding force behind all proposed actions taken along the Commonwealth’s shorelines and this plan is at 100% compliance.” This includes the 50% open space requirement under Chapter 91. The proponent is emphasizing watersheet activation, mostly through a reinvigorated Boston Sailing Center.

JWCP also compares its proposal to the 1991 approved plans by the Gunwyn Company for a slightly larger hotel project (6 floors and 335 rooms) with underground parking, fully permitted at the time under the Harborpark plan. The Gunwyn project was never built due to the early 1990’s recession. The commercial property at Lewis Wharf is currently owned by DeNormandie Companies, including watersheet rights over the existing piling fields.

Lewis Wharf Project Diagram
Lewis Wharf Project Diagram

The 30 foot, underground 379-space public parking garage is expected to accommodate the current parking needs in the 225 space surface lot (including ~65 monthly parkers), plus another 155 for the hotel.

The PNF includes a traffic analysis by the developer consultants implying a minimal impact on a relative basis to what is an already congested area. Most car traffic would be to and from the I-93 tunnels. Extensive use of alternative transportation is discussed in the filing including Zipcars, Hubway and biking accommodations. The project location is about a five minute walk to the MBTA Blue Line Aquarium station and on the Route 4 MBTA bus route. On the harbor side, the Project anticipates adding a water taxi stop to the Lewis Wharf site. Further traffic analysis is expected in cooperation with the BRA and Boston Transportation Department as part of the project review.

Lewis Wharf Project Traffic Distribution
Lewis Wharf Project Traffic Distribution

Of keen interest to economic development officials will be the estimated $7.4 million in city and state taxes annually. To date, the developer has not requested any tax breaks. The PNF provides assurances on basic utility and services for water and sewers.

Regarding sea level rise and climate change preparedness, the project will exceed FEMA’s 18.46 feet over base elevation regulations with the proposal estimating 20.5 feet elevation for the first floor of the hotel. Paving and landscaping will be designed for short-term flooding and critical equipment will be located above the second floor.

As for the timeline, if approved after a 1-2 year regulatory review, construction is estimated to last approximately 36 months with initial site work expected to begin in the second quarter of 2017 and completion in the second quarter of 2020.

Upcoming BRA Meetings

On Wednesday September 30th @ 7:00pm the proponent will present to the IAG for the first time under their formal Article 80 review. According to the BRA, the public may come and participate if any time is leftover, but IAG members will have preference to speak. The meeting will be held at the Nazarro Center, immediately following an Eliot School meeting that starts at 6pm.

On Wednesday October 7th @ 7:00pm the public is invited to a community meeting where the project will be presented.  This meeting will also be at the Nazzaro Center (in gymnasium). This will be more of an open forum and everyone will have an opportunity to fully participate.

The official public comment period is now open and set to expire on October 15th. Public Comments can be emailed to

Aerial View of North End Waterfront with Rendering Added for Lewis Wharf Hotel Project

17 Replies to “Lewis Wharf Hotel Project Starts the Clock With Formal Document Filing

  1. Can you imagine the foot traffic in the area? Lewis Wharf residents will be suffocated by it and by the hotel in its front yard. Is this project necessary? Does the North End need / want more ‘stuff’ out there, interfering with views and easy access to the water? This project is rather disheartening. By the same token, why should I care? In the whole scheme of the Universe…..why should I care?

    1. I’d like to comment on two statements made by Will Adams. First: “This is a real park,” said Will Adams of JW Capital. Make no mistake. This is NOT a real park. It is a strip of land with an entry and an exit ramp for the underground garage, and three additional lanes: one for parallel parking along the North side of the Lewis Wharf granite building and one each for entry and exit to the hotel. This will be a strip of land with FIVE lanes for traffic with a bit of grass and landscaping. No one would allow their child or pet to run around in this unprotected green space. No adult will be able to relax amid the activity on FIVE lanes of traffic.

      Second: “We have heard concerns about noise from abutters so to limit that, we are thinking that programmed space would be in the Water Court area,” said JWCP’s Adams. The Water Court will be the “heart and soul” of the hotel, said Adams, situated on the harborside of the glass lobby connector between the two new buildings and segregated from the surrounding neighbors. Translation: They will wall off (“SEGREGATE”) the Harbor from the neighborhood, make it their own, and it will become the “heart and soul” of the hotel. It is currently the heart and soul of our neighborhood, and we’d like to keep it that way. NO HOTEL at Lewis Wharf!

  2. “The project location is about a five minute walk to the MBTA Blue Line Aquarium station and on the Route 4 MBTA bus route.” – Favorite quote in here, because people staying at a “4-5” star hotel will be taking the T or a bus… such a joke… And with their argument that people will be travelling on 93 and 95, so now it will just take forever for people to get off the highway?

    1. I see tourists on the blue line all the time going to the airport. It actually could be the quickest way from this site.

  3. Of course, the obvious question is, why does the North End/Waterfront need another hotel? Will it improve the quality of life of any of the residents or will it just make some real estate developer rich?
    Wouldn’t it be nice if the Boston Redevelopment Authority had a master plan for the city, designating some sections as commercial and others as residential?
    What they are trying to do here is turn our residential neighborhood into a commercial one by chipping away at the edges. Another hotel here, a high rise condominium there and pretty soon the neighborhood is lost.
    Shame on the BRA for pandering to real estate developers at the expense of the neighborhood residents.

  4. The hotel is a better use than a condo project which will have cars all the time and reduce parking available for “tourists” which are necessary for the North End to survive. A Condo project would need more city services, e.g. schools. Hotel guests will either take a taxi or a water taxi from the airport. This project will open up this area to all of us. If you turn this down, you will get something bigger and less attractive. When a development is rejected, developers turn to Ch. 40B – Affordable Housing – which the City usually cannot turn down.

  5. Nick you are right on!
    Many people feel the same as you and that is why it is important that everyone be heard.
    Letters to be written to BRA and names to be present on the “No Hotel” petition are cruel.
    We have a wonderful neighborhood that embraces many friendships and that’s why we all know our neighbors.
    Let’s maintain that great gift.

  6. Today there was a conversation with people who live in other areas of town. All of them responded “it will never happen.” I suppose they have a more objective view of the issue. I agree.

  7. One of the points in favor of the development is that the current parking lot will be placed underground and a park will be created. I am picturing the similar project at Post Office Square that created a beautiful green space.

  8. Anything worth having is worth fighting for. I think everyone should continue to fight for what they
    believe in. Nick you are so right. North End Chris, the North End survived very well before we got
    bombarded with all these restaurants, bars and hotels. We had Stella’s, Joe Tecce’s, the European,
    Giro’s, Felicia’s, just to name a few. We had politicians and celebrities frequenting these establishments for many years.
    We had our share of Tourists, not like we do today, and we survived very nicely. Everyone is on
    this kick of Hotels and Condos, did anyone ever talk about an Assisted Living Project for the elderly?
    We have 3 or 4 Senior Housing in the No. End, but Assisted Living does not exist. Why not?
    The City can’t make the Revenue they can on a Hotel or Condo Project. Greed is the problem.
    We all love money, but you don’t have to step on existing residents to obtain it.

  9. To simply say no is easy, but to have an alternative plan is the tough part. I’ve gone back and forth on this one many times, and what I keep coming back to is what would I rather in this space. The owner of this property will not sit on it paying taxes forever. At some point something will get built, either by this owner, or the new owner it gets sold to. So the question becomes what would we as residents rather? If someone can come up with a project that complies with all of the guidelines as this one does, I’d love to hear it. Outside of the fact that it’s a hotel, I like everything else about it. Having them be private residences I had assumed would be an option, but it was stated that the developers went with hotel because the area is designated as “public” space. Maybe that’s just being said to support their decision. Either way, we need to recognize that ultimately something will get built, and with the lack of any alternatives I find myself leaning in support.

    1. That’s the exact point, Drew, there are no alternative proposals because the BRA never informed any of the neighbors that the site was going to be developed. This hotel proposal was dropped on us like a bomb, take it or we shove it down your throats.
      Wouldn’t it have been nice if local residents were invited to participate in the preliminary discussions?
      This kind of top down real estate development is bad for the neighborhood and bad for the city. The North End/Waterfront is supposed to be a residential neighborhood with light commercial development around the periphery. We already have three hotels on Commercial St. and Atlantic Ave. Do we really need a fourth?

  10. I think another great idea for this space would have been an over 55 Development, which does not exist in the North End/
    Waterfront area.

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