Real Estate

Waterfront Municipal Harbor Plan Comments Oppose Harbor Garage Development, Mixed on Long Wharf Additions, Support for 50% Open Space, Harborwalk, Blueway, Hook Lobster

Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Planning Area

After a three year process, comment letters are in to the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) on the draft Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Plan (MHP) that will set guidelines for zoning and a vision for development and open space for Boston’s waterfront between the North End and Fort Point Channel.

All the comment letters can be viewed here. Highlighted below are excerpts from some local and noteworthy letters of interest, with general consensus as follows:

  • Opposition is strong to the proposed 600′ height and scaling at the Harbor Garage site with requests for a detailed proposal by the Chiofaro Company developer.
  • There is also broad support for the 50% open space guideline per State Chapter 91 requirements. 
  • Support for the more moderate Hook Lobster site development.
  • Favorable reviews of the master plans of the New England Aquarium (the Blueway) and the Wharf District Council.
  • Mixed reaction to the activation around Marriott Long Wharf.

Boston Harbor Now (full letter) In order for the final Downtown Municipal Harbor Plan to achieve the promise of Boston’s signature waterfront neighborhood, it needs to include the following:

  • An outstanding Public Realm that truly embodies the mission of the new BPDA and the ideas for the waterfront put forth by IB2030.  The New England Aquarium and Wharf District Council both advanced exciting, creative proposals for increasing and connecting public open space from the Greenway to the harbor.
  • The plan should also include a truly great “gateway to the Boston Harbor Islands” designed and built on what is now the Chart House parking lot (owned by the BPDA).  Such a ferry terminal—to be also used by other water transportation passengers—needs to be bigger than the 500SF waiting area proposed in the draft plan and should be co-branded with existing Faneuil Hall and Greenway Visitor Centers.
  • The scale of development proposed for the Harbor Garage and Hook Lobster sites is substantially greater than what would be allowed today.  Unfortunately, the scale of public benefits proposed as offsets is not commensurate with the increase in development value being offered to the property owners of these sites.

Victor Brogna (full letter), North End / Waterfront resident and NEWRA Chair of the Zoning, Licensing & Construction Committee

  1. The 585 feet maximum height and 70% lot coverage to be allowed at the Harbor Garage site would violate the protection of the public’s rights mandated by the Office of Coastal Zone Management Notice to Proceed.
  2. The proposed enlargement of the footprint of the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel, and the suggestion that new structures may be built seaward of the hotel, are both barred as a result of the BRA having lost its lawsuit against the National Park Service. (Also see National Park Service letter on Long Wharf.)

Bud Ris (full letter), citizen member of MHP advisory committee, former CEO of the New England Aquarium

Since the development of the draft Public Realm Plan for the Downtown MHP, many of us on the Advisory Committee have been calling for a more transformative approach to the process.

First and foremost, is the Aquarium’s concept for a “BlueWay” extending from the Greenway’s Rings Fountain to the seaward edge of Central Wharf.

A second concept that deserves full integration with the final Downtown MHP is embodied in the WDC’s approach to enhanced HarborWalk connections at the Hook Lobster site and the WDC’s call for a more ambitious strategy for public realm benefits that could be realized with the replacement of the Northern Avenue Bridge.

Re: the Harbor Garage site, I continue to believe that the maximum guidelines of 600 feet in height and 900,000 square feet in floor area remain woefully inconsistent with the urban context for the site, the results of six years of planning studies for this area, general MHP/CH 91 guidelines, precedents set in other MHP’s around the Harbor, and common sense.

New England Aquarium (full letter)

The Aquarium appreciates that the draft MHP reflects some of the major planning principles embodied in its own master plan (the Blueway). Yet, as the Aquarium has stated publicly and detailed for BPDA staff, the Aquarium recommends, regardless of the total amount of open space ultimately required and provided on the Harbor Garage site, at least the northern-most 30% of the site be kept as open space.

Moreover, it is evident that a great deal of work remains to be done before the Aquarium can support certain key elements of the draft MHP, including substitutions proposed as maximums for the Harbor Garage site.

Specifically, the Harbor Garage project proponent has not yet demonstrated financial or other justification for relief from Chapter 91’s baseline standards for height and lot coverage, much less to the extent of the proposed maximum dimensions and density.

State Representative Aaron Michlewitz (full letter)

Starting off with the Marriott Long Wharf, I believe what has been recommended is sensible and will provide a path to make that area more inviting to tourists and commuters.

(Harbor Garage) I believe the concession on both height and density by the Harbor Tower residents is extremely important. Any development that should occur on this site should not exceed 50% lot coverage on the ground level as required under State Chapter 91 guidelines.

Friends of Christopher Columbus Park (full letter)

  • Support for Chapter 91 guideline 50% lot coverage for both the Hook Lobster and the Harbor Garage, which will maximize the view corridors to the harbor.
  • Support for the “Vision Plans” of the New England Aquarium and the Wharf District Council
  • Way Finding and Historical Signage – We support the WDC’s concept of “a network of way finding kiosks and signage to orient visitors toward the waterfront, teach them about Boston’s right history and assist them in finding area attractions.”
  • Harbor Garage – We oppose the proposed 600′ structure
  • Long Wharf – We are opposed to the commercializing the end of Long Wharf
  • Marriott Long Wharf Expansion – We support expansion especially on the west side of the building where there is tremendous opportunity for four season development.
  • Northern Avenue Bridge – We strongly support use of the Northern Avenue Bridge be restricted to pedestrian-only access with exception for emergency vehicles.

The BPDA has provided the following links to all the comment letters as well as other relevant documents: