Real Estate

State Regulator Opposes Lewis Wharf Hotel Building Over Submerged Harbor Pilings

Aerial of existing property at Lewis Wharf with marked project borders (Image from PNF)
Aerial of existing property at Lewis Wharf with marked project borders. Piling field in question is located on east side of condo building around the existing Boston Sailing Center. Compare this image with those shown below at high tide. (Image from Project Notification Form)

The proposed hotel project at Lewis Wharf has been thrown into question after the Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection confirmed that a new development cannot extend over pilings or piers that are below water at high tide. Since much of the piling field at Lewis Wharf is not visible at high tide, the DEP ruling could dramatically reduce the size of the area where the proposed hotel was to be built. There is a 30-day comment period before a final ruling. According to the DEP:

Regarding the proposed Lewis Wharf Project, the Department believes that this regulatory clarification will result in a substantially reduced project shoreline. Such a shoreline, determined based on this clarification, could form the basis for a “Reduced Footprint” alternative which was required to be evaluated by the Secretary’s ENF Certificate.  [Reference: Notice of Proposed Interpretation of Existing Pile Supported Structures and Pile Fields, Lewis Wharf (EEA# 15148)]

The active neighborhood group opposing the project, Save the North End Waterfront, took the DEP’s clarification as a major victory. “DEP’s findings should mark the end of plans to build a massive luxury hotel at this site,” stated North End resident Jennifer Crampton.

Rendering of hotel proposal at Lewis Wharf - JW Capital Partners
Rendering of two building hotel proposal at Lewis Wharf jutting into Boston Harbor – JW Capital Partners

JW Capital has proposed a 277 key, 5-story, multi-building hotel at the end of Lewis Wharf. The designation of the piling field on which the project is proposed to be built has been questioned since the proposal emerged in 2015.

Abutting residents are calling on the Boston Redevelopment Authority to stop the hotel proposal based on the DEP’s findings. “It’s not appropriate to build a luxury hotel of this size and density over Commonwealth tidelands, and we hope that the BRA will respond accordingly,” said resident Michael Malm.

The controversial Lewis Wharf hotel project has been debated at several meetings. Local elected officials have come out strongly opposing the project, including Boston City Councilor Salvatore LaMattina, the four Boston At-Large Councilors, State Representative Aaron Michlewitz, and State Senator Joseph Boncore. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has not taken a public position on the issue.

The DEP clarification restricting development on submerged piling fields and wharves could also signal upcoming roadblocks for other potential waterfront development sites at the Seaport and North End / Waterfront area, including the Harbor Garage, Sargent’s Wharf and Hook Lobster. The State’s Chapter 91 and environmental regulations are often seen as more friendly to public concerns than the City’s development-focused zoning process.

Use our Lewis Wharf Hotel tag to view previous articles and videos.

7 Replies to “State Regulator Opposes Lewis Wharf Hotel Building Over Submerged Harbor Pilings

  1. The Army Corps of Engineer is the regulatory agency in charge of the installation/replacement of pilings on the water, not the MASS DEP. In fact, you don’t need any type of permit or approval to replace existing pilings or to change their height. All the developer needs to do is hire a marine contractor to replace the existing pilings to ones that extend above the surface at high tide. Then go get your permit to build on your new pilings.

  2. Wow, people really think that a bunch of rotted pilings is better than a pretty nice looking building at this site? Talk about being a stick in the mud.

    1. It’s not the nice building people are worried about. It’s the people and the traffic and the lack of public benefit that come with the benefit. Try to drive down Atlantic ave towards the greenway during rush hour and then come back to us….

    2. The argument for accepting a walling off of the harbor with a “pretty nice building” because is better than derilect pilings, rewards the landowner who has allowed this condition to exist and assumes that the derilect pilings will remain forever and there is no better use for the site. Both incorrect assumptions.

  3. Did all of the millionaires care when their condos and big buildings blocked the view of the harbor for everybody else? The million you spent on your condo doesn’t secure your rights to an ocean view. Sorry

  4. Hey, folks, come on…there’s simply no common sense in the proposed hotel project. Beside the real-life, ordinary, every day objections of traffic, noise, etc., 97% of scientists agree that climate change is happening right here and right now. Recent projections show rising sea levels; sections of Boston Harbor and far inland will be underwater in the not too distant future. So, why would anyone want to build on old pilings out past any safety zone? Money.

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