After months of negotiations, an agreement between Harbor Garage owner, Chiofaro Company, the New England Aquarium and the City of Boston was released on Friday. The deal comes after city officials consulted with State regulators on the draft Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Plan (MHP) submitted last March. In the latest supplement to the MHP (pdf), the Boston Planning and Redevelopment Agency (BPDA) detailed terms between the three parties that will allow for a tower up to 600 feet (900,000 square feet capacity) at the water’s edge while securing permanent parking for the Aquarium and indemnifying it from losses during construction.
The MHP supplement also revises plans for a new park at the Chart House parking lot at Long Wharf and removes over-the-water Harborwalk requirements at the Hook Lobster site where a new 305 foot building is envisioned.
At the Aquarium site, $10 million will come from the Harbor Garage developer toward the Blueway plan at Central Wharf. The demolition of the IMAX theater is expected to add toward the open space configuration between the Harbor Garage site and the Aquarium, but some limits were imposed to spread out the open space around the entire tower. City officials lauded the agreement in letter to Secretary Matthew Beacon of the State’s Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs.
“The MHP will provide substantial baseline public benefits, with the redevelopment of the Garbor Garage site removing a relic from the days of the elevated I-93 Artery and opening 50 percent of the site for new public open spaces and improved views from the Greenway.” Brian P. Golden, Director, Boston Planning and Development Agency.
A key change in the MHP supplement is that the Harbor Garage developer has agreed to indemnify the Aquarium during and an expected three year construction period for loss of business up to $30 million ($10 million outright and $20 million via a loan). The indemnification covers a loss of revenue if Aquarium visitors fall below the current 1.37 million.
Permanent requirements were imposed on the Harbor Garage developer to provide Aquarium parking (250 spaces weekdays, 500 nights and weekends) during construction and thereafter once the new tower is complete. The deal between the Aquarium and the Harbor Garage is currently a preliminary framework with 60 days to strike a final agreement or head to arbitration.
Specific changes to the Harbor Garage offsets as mitigation for a 600 foot tower plan (vs. 150 feet current zoning):
–$10 million will go toward the Aquarium’s Blueway plan (up from $5 million in the original MHP).
–$300,000 to the BPDA for waterfront design and use standards.
–Removal of a $5 million requirement toward the new park at the BRA owned parking lot at the Chart House on Long Wharf. These funds are now expected to come from the development at the Hook Lobster site.
Specific changes to the Harbor Garage Open Space Guidance should the developer acquire abutting property (including as the IMAX theater):
–The 50% open space requirement should be applied with 30% maximum on the north side by Milk Street (see diagram on last page at the end of this post). Locate open space as close to the water, with views toward the Greenway and a setback from the harbor encouraging year-round public use.
–New open spaces should discourage preferential access by private users.
–Any new structures on acquired abutting property (i.e., the IMAX theater) are restricted to 55 feet in height.
While still allowing acquired property to be part of a larger site plan, these changes appear to partially address concerns regarding using a demolished IMAX theater to largely satisfy the 50% open space requirement.
The Hook Wharf development offsets were also modified in the supplement refocusing $4 million in mitigation toward a new park at the Chart House parking lot. Notably, all requirements were removed toward an over-the-water Harborwalk on the Fort Point Channel. A building at Hook Wharf is allowed up to 305 feet, although any proposal appears significantly further behind that of the Harbor Garage in timing.
–Hook Lobster proponent will provide $4 million in funding toward design and construction of a waterfront park at the BRA-owned Chart House parking lot.
–Removed requirement to create a ground floor public facility for waterfront uses at the Hook Wharf site.
–Removed requirement to expand a public deck connecting the Moakley Bridge pedestrian connection.
–Removed requirement for $1.5 million toward an over-the-water Harborwalk connection between the Hook site and 470/500 Atlantic Ave.
From here, the MHP remains under State review that is expected to take several more months and include a public comment period. 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. A design for the $1.3 billion tower at the Harbor Garage site is still in the preliminary stages by the Chiofaro Company. Another wildcard would be the reaction of abutters opposed to the plan, especially at Harbor Towers, where many residents continue to threaten a lawsuit aimed at deficiencies in the prolonged and convoluted MHP process. A copy of the latest MHP supplement is shown below (click on pages to enlarge).