After many complaints about the Municipal Harbor Plan (MHP), the City still gave the go-ahead for the proposed 600-foot tower right on the Boston Harbor. At the July 12th North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) meeting, Victor Brogna and Diane Rubin, representing Harbor Towers, discussed the plan with attendees.
Brogna said there is a lack of vision and that there was nothing creative about the project coming to the Waterfront. On the flexibility of the tower’s height he said, “The state regulations say 55 feet at the water’s edge stepping back to 155 feet. For some reason the BRA (Boston Redevelopment Authority) thinks 600 feet is what should go there. I don’t.”
The Public Trust Doctrine, Brogna brought up, says that the sovereign, or now the legislature, hold the tidal waters (the harbor) of the Commonwealth in trust for the benefit of the people. The trust is supposed to act only in the best interest of the beneficiaries of the waters. “How is a 600-foot tower at the water’s edge in the best interest of you and me who want to enjoy the water’s edge ourselves?”
“There is an overriding requirement of public purpose if you’re going to violate the regulations,” he said. “The ‘public purpose’ must be equal to or greater than what the regulations call for,” he added. He said he feels the plan falls flat when it comes to these requirements.
Legal Councilor Diane Rubin, representing the Harbor Towers, also spoke at the meeting. She said that the trustees at Harbor Towers have been trying to make a deal with Chiofaro Company and Prudential, but there is no deal to be made. One of the main issues Harbor Towers has with the MHP is that Chiofaro plans to end their access to parking in the Boston Harbor Garage in 2022.
“If you’re going to change regulations,” Rubin said of the MHP, “have a public process, do it the right way!” She said it may be unlawful to change the rules for this one property, and that the MHP seems like a way to help some private land owners over the public.
Regarding Harbor Towers, Rubin said that they are in favor of renovating the Boston Harbor Garage, however, not with a 600-foot tower attached to it. “Having a 600-foot tower on the Waterfront would be like putting the Prudential Center on the Waterfront,” she added. If the tower were to be built, she said there is a possibility of a domino effect where other developers would attempt similar skyline-altering projects on the Waterfront as well.
It may seem hypocritical for Harbor Towers to speak out as a 400-foot tall building directly on the Waterfront, however, Durbin said though the construction of the Harbor Towers wasn’t right, they’re already here, so the City shouldn’t replicate the mistake with the MHP.
“When the Harbor Towers were built,” Durbin said, “it was part of an Urban Renewal Plan aimed at getting people to live close to downtown again; the MHP seems to be an exception for a private interest.”
Durbin said the City created a supplement to the MHP stating that certain conditions must be met with the New England Aquarium before they approve anything. With all the terms laid out on the table, still no deal has been made because the Aquarium, like Harbor Towers, cannot make a deal before knowing what the 600-foot tower will even look like.
The North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) meetings are held on the second Thursday of the month. The meetings are at 7:00 p.m. at the Nazzaro Center, 30 N. Bennet Street.
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