Business Real Estate

Wharf District Council Releases Its Own Public Realm Vision

The Wharf District Council (WDC) is pushing for a significant increase of 200,000+ square feet in open space on the waterfront as part of its own Public Realm Vision plan released this week. The draft document shown below in its entirety comes in response to the public realm initiative being put forth by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA, formerly the BRA) as part of the Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Plan. [See Mitigations Proposed for Harbor Garage, Long Wharf & Hook Wharf Developments] The WDC Public Realm Vision attempts to maximize open space around the three development sites, Harbor Garage, Hook Lobster and the Marriott Long Wharf.

  1. At the Harbor Garage site, the WDC plan shows a proposed building angled to maximize views to the harbor with unified links from the Greenway and Aquarium to Boston Harbor. At the water’s edge, floating docks and a gathering space are shown with multiple art elements along the Harborwalk. The document does not endorse or condone the BPDA’s proposed 600′ height and 900 sq. ft. massing of a new development at Harbor Garage by the Chiofaro Company.

2. At Long Wharf, the WDC plan recommends enhancing the existing “walk to the sea” corridor with greater pedestrian space and reducing the roadway area. Similar to the mitigations proposed by the BPDA draft, it looks to enhance the lobby space through the Marriott Long Wharf hotel. Features include an arts plaza at the Harbor Islands ferry terminal with 4-season restaurants and an “iconic attraction” at the end of Long Wharf, such as a ferris wheel, observation deck or light display. It is unclear how the WDC plan would accommodate the protections under the Land and Water Conservation Act recently affirmed by the Federal Court regarding the parkland designation at the end of Long Wharf. The court ruling specifically prohibits a restaurant and presumably other non-passive uses or commercialization such as those referenced in the WDC plan.

3. At the Hook Lobster site, the WDC plan recommends an extended shared pedestrian plaza from the new Northern Avenue bridge along with an expanded Harborwalk and a “lower/floating experience” under the bridge. An “art element” is also included to show users that the bridge connection exists.

The WDC is a nonprofit that includes a mix of residences, hotels and businesses, including A Better City, Boston Harbor Cruises, Boston Harbor Hotel, Broadluxe Condominiums, Folio Condominiums, Friends of Christopher Columbus Park (non-voting), Harborside Inn, Harbor Towers I & Harbor Towers II Condominiums, Greenway Place Condominiums, The InterContinental Hotel, InterContinental Residences, Marriott Custom House Condominiums, Marriott Long Wharf Hotel, New England Aquarium, The Residences at Rowes Wharf.

Halvorson Design created the WDC draft study that was publicly shared this week and is shown below in its entirety. The group defines the burgeoning Wharf District as the stretch of waterfront from Christopher Columbus Park to the Old Northern Avenue bridge. [See Is it Time for the Wharf District?]

The cost of these public realm enhancements are estimated up to $26.9 million at Long Wharf, $5.3 million at Hook Lobster and $5.6 million at the Harbor Garage. It is unclear where the proposed funding will come from, although the BPDA draft assumes some contribution from individual site developers.

WDC’s plan follows a recent presentation by the New England Aquarium with its own Blueway initiative that it also hopes its concepts will be incorporated into the final MHP for the downtown waterfront.