As the City wraps up its recommendations for the Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Plan, we recently received a letter from the National Park Service (NPS) to the State asking about Long Wharf Park … not just the small pavilion at the end, but ALL of the activities / uses / structures around the Marriott hotel and the commercial building on the property.
The NPS letter, shown below and dated January 14, 2016, expresses concerns regarding the existing food / beverage concessions, ferry / tourist ticket booths, parking lot and marina operations. The letter implies that most all of Long Wharf is protected as public parkland given the “Total Park Project Area” shown on the Section 6(f) boundary map that came to light in the recent lawsuit.
In the decade long battle over Long Wharf, the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA, formerly the BRA) recently lost its appeal in Federal court against the NPS to lease out the end of Long Wharf for a restaurant and potentially other active uses. Despite the loss in court, the BPDA and most recently, the Wharf District Council, continue to propose various activation and commercialization schemes that would likely violate the area’s protection under the LWCF Act.
The NPS is looking at whether any part of Long Wharf Park has been “converted” to non-public use that would violate the passive, park uses required by the LWCF Act. Specifically questioned are the ferry, food service (including outdoor seating) and tourist operations on the southwest side of Long Wharf (Aquarium side). The area around the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel includes an outdoor bar “The Landing” along with multiple food and ticket concession structures by Boston Harbor Cruises and other vendors. The private parking lot on the northern side is also questioned in the letter. Similarly, the patios on both sides of the Chart House restaurant are mentioned as are the boating facilities of the Boston Waterboat Marina.
Some of the uses mentioned might not be conversions depending on when they started. For example, the NPS letter mentions that patio seating at the Chart House may have been a longstanding use in place when the LWCF grant was awarded.
The State office that received the letter says it is waiting to hear back from the BPDA regarding the concerns before it responds to the Federal agency. In the 10 months since the NPS letter, there has been no response by the city according to a contact in the State environmental office.
The NPS letter, shown in its entirety below, would appear to place major obstacles in front of the BPDA’s plans for the rest of Long Wharf as part of the new Municipal Harbor Plan. The draft MHP proposes 18,000 sq. ft. of new ground floor interior area space to activate the north side of Long Wharf. It also calls for a water transportation / ferry waiting room and ticket office of 500+ sq. ft. for year-round use.