Real Estate

B&T: Lewis Wharf Hotel Project to be “Radically Changed” but Move Forward

Rendering of hotel proposal at Lewis Wharf – JW Capital Partners

Construction manager John Moriarty said he and partner J.W. Capital continue to review alterations to their plans to move forward with a hotel project at Lewis Wharf, per an article in Banker & Tradesman.  The news on the originally proposed 5-story, 277 room hotel comes despite a significantly reduced project area as a result of a Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) determination that pilings underwater at high tide cannot be built upon. B&T quoted the contractor at a recent presentation:

“It would get radically changed,” Moriarty said at a ceremony Friday. “We tried to do a proposal that was completely as-of-right. We didn’t ask for a height variation like every other building around there has, we didn’t ask for a (lot) coverage variation, we didn’t ask for a density variation. So we’ve asked for nothing we wouldn’t be entitled to under the current zoning.”

Few pilings at Lewis Wharf are visible at high tide

Moriarty said the Lewis Wharf project should be considered in the context of larger developments under consideration as part of the Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Plan which includes guidelines for towers at the Harbor Garage and Hook Lobster sites.

The controversial Lewis Wharf hotel project has been debated at several meetings and is being fiercely opposed by residents as part of the Save Our North End Waterfront group. Local elected officials have also come out against 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.

View more posts on the Lewis Wharf Hotel project.

14 Replies to “B&T: Lewis Wharf Hotel Project to be “Radically Changed” but Move Forward

  1. The Hook re-development and the Harbor garage site should have very little to do with this. They haven’t even figured out a way to alleviate traffic on Commercial St, they even made it worse with the cycle track…

  2. The people at the end of Lewis wharf who paid a fortune for those end units with the Harbor view must be freaking out.

  3. What the developer has failed to recognize when comparing this project to the other oversized commercial waterfront proposals is that Lewis Wharf is part of a residential neighborhood, the most densely populated one in the City, that has already been overwhelmed by the unpreccedented development that is taking place on all sides of the North End: North Station, Bulfinch Triangle, Government Center, and Parcel 9/Haymarket. The City should place an indefinite moratorium on any further devlopment projects in the area until it can produce a plan that addresses critical infrastructure issues that to date have been entirely ignored. Specifically, the need for meaningful and immediate traffic mitigation along with essential public transportaion enhancements.

  4. Full disclosure, a friend of mine is the developer of the James Hook site. I’ve seen the plans and it looks like a reasonable project, at least to me.
    It’s far enough away from the North End that the overall impact on us shouldn’t be too burdensome and the size is moderate.
    The interesting thing is this; my friend is planning a single mid size tower with a fairly small footprint and he tells me it will work from a financial standpoint.
    This raises the question, why does the Harbor Towers garage project have to be so much larger for that developer to make a profit?
    I understand the acquisition costs for the garage were high but there is something that just doesn’t add up here.

      1. Let’s do some rudimentary math shall we? Let’s say there are about 2,000 parking spots in the garage (that would be 6 stories, 300 spots per floor, the 7th floor is separately occupied by rental car agencies). That’s a very generous estimate, but I’m going from memory here. Let’s say that half of those sport are generally occupied, though it seems that it’s always more than that. I know that monthly parkers pay about $350 a month. A daily rate is $38, or $1,000 a month. Let’s be generous and call it $600 a month on average or $600,000 for all spots for a month. Sounds like a lot? Wait a second That’s $7,2M a year. Wooo-hoo.

        Now, the garage was purchased in 2009 for, I believe, $126M. So you are looking at an average annual return of… 5%. That is before paying for utilities, taxes, salaries, etc, you are looking for 3% return at best. No bueno.

        So, no, it has nothing to do with the garage being “profitable”. It has to do with ungodly high purchase price in 2009, based on plans of building giant towers. Would you like to compare the profit there? Let’s see. If it’s all condos (I know it wouldn’t be, but for the sake of simple spit-balling), you are probably looking at at least 500 units in a single tower. Let’s say, $2M per unit average? That’s a Billion, with a B. Let’s say it costs $400-500M to build (Millennium Tower was $350M, according to reports, so we’ll pad it and include all the needed bribes, etc) . That’s a tidy profit of $400M after including the coast of the garage. And, remember, there will probably be 2 towers, not one. The original plan was for 3 towers.

        Sooo… garage profitability, you say? Small potatoes. Very small potatoes.

          1. This is far from homework, it’s formulating numbers to support your position.

            What you haven’t included is the profitability of the garage over a projected period of time.

            1. What, in your educated opinion, is “profitability over a projected period of time”? Don’t be bashful, you can just provide a URL with details as an explanation here. Please define “projected period of time”. Methinks that you are missing something very basic here. You are welcome to argue about the estimated numbers above, too. We have not seen yours, just opinions, it seems.

              PS. I do not have a position on the subject. My _thought_ is that the developer severely overpaid for the garage. My prediction is that now, 7 years later, he has only 13 more years of arguing and bribing left to go. After which he will receive his permit and variances. After which the construction will start. After which he’ll run out of money and declare bankruptcy. Again. After which it’ll seat half-built for a year or two. After which somebody else will take over. After which, they will finish it. And, to the great surprise to everyone, the variances will be exceeded, the project will look nothing like what was approved and that will require another year or so of hand-wringing, arguing and, I’m sure, some more bribes. As of 2036 or so we’ll have these towers up and full of offices. Which, surprisingly, will require cars to bring people in and out and will make already undrivable Surface road a complete parking lot. This is Boston, right? Where things happen magically and by the grace of God, not by any sort of sane urban planning or with any type of sanity involved. Have I missed anything in this scenario?

              Again, please don’t tell people that they have a “position”. Unless you know something I don’t. If you do, please share.

  5. Save our waterfront? The waterfront needed saving 20 years ago. You can’t buy a closet on the waterfront for less than $1,000,000 and all of a sudden people are worried about what effect this will have on the neighborhood.

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