The City of Boston has requested an additional extension from State officials to further the discussions and review of the Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Plan. With the fourth such extension request, the latest delay comes nearly a year after the drafted plan was submitted in March 2017 by the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) for review by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The 30 day extension brings the next deadline to February 19, 2018.
Recall, the Downtown Waterfront MHP covers the area from Long Wharf, northward along Boston Harbor to the Moakley Bridge. The three major development sites include the Harbor Garage (owned by Chiofaro Company and Prudential), the Hook Lobster parcel and Long Wharf. Most controversial has been the 600 foot tower in the draft plan at Harbor Garage, next to the New England Aquarium and largely opposed by neighboring Harbor Towers residents. For its part, the Aquarium has proposed its own Blueway plan that may involve a swap/sale of the IMAX theater to make room for the Chiofaro project at Harbor Garage. [See Aquarium’s IMAX Theater Deal Would Increase Footprint of Chiofaro’s Harbor Garage Project]
Coming with the ongoing MHP delay have been letter requests by local groups, including the Wharf District Council (pdf), to reopen the public comment period once the revised plan becomes public. Abutters are concerned that the ongoing negotiations between city, state and property owners will result in significant compromises and changes from the plans presented last year.
Boston Harbor Now, a non-profit harbor advocacy group, has recently made significant additional comments to the State regulator before the final Downtown Waterfront MHP is released. In a January 15, 2018 letter (pdf), BHN says that public officials should stop waiting “for agreements among individual property owners” and issue broad standards for the broader area.
To be truly transformative, the MHP should be independent of and bigger than any individual project proposed within the jurisdictional boundary of the MHP. [Boston Harbor Now]
Highlighted priorities in the BHN letter include:
–Inner harbor water transportation with new ferry infrastructure, including a terminal at Long Wharf,
–Enhanced pedestrian connectivity with a completed Harborwalk at the Coast Guard / Hook Lobster sites,
–Climate resiliency along the entire water’s edge. After the recent storm flooding, BHN believes the entire MHP project area should be designated as a Flood Resiliency District where climate change preparedness guides development success.
–Callout in support for the Aquarium’s Blueway plan,
— As the former Harbor Islands Alliance, the group emphasizes the need for a gateway center to the islands at the Chart House parking lot on Long Wharf,
— Lastly, “special protection” for the New England Aquarium is warranted, says BHN, and no harm should come to the popular destination from development authorized by the MHP.
The full BHN letter is shown below.