Tavistock Development Company, commercial property owners along Commercial Wharf in Boston’s North End, addressed a large gathering of residents Tuesday evening at Joe’s American Bar & Grill. Still very much in the infantile stage of planning, residents who attended had several concerns with the company’s redevelopment proposal along the pier.
Tavistock’s current plans include Joe’s American Bar & Grill, which is owned by their sister company Tavistock Restaurant Collection, and the burned out building located at 88-91 Commercial Wharf East that the company acquired in 2016. Their concept is to rebuild both buildings from the ground up and connect the existing Harborwalk by building their own 24′-30′ Harborwalk.
Currently, the exact plan for each building hasn’t been completely figured out by Tavistock but they generally want to place an inn and new restaurant in multiple buildings across the pier. The company did confirm that the hotel would use union labor.
Facing a push from the City of Boston to create a Harborwalk on the marina, Tavistock plans to build one wide enough to serve as a wave breaker featuring a resiliency wall to protect against flooding. A long disputed subject, the proposal of a Harborwalk was met with scrutiny with some worried about the status of their boats docked near where the proposed Harborwalk would be constructed and others concerned that areas without a Harborwalk would become more at risk unless a continuous walk was built.
“I love the idea that you’re coming up with an option for storm surge…but have you done any research to find out how protecting your property is going to effect the surrounding properties [such as] Christopher Columbus Park and Commercial Wharf?” asked one concerned resident.
James Zboril, President of Tavistock Development Company, responded that the company is working alongside the Friends of Christopher Columbus Park stating, “We have to work together.”
An infamously lengthy issue, connecting the Harborwalk would require cooperation from Boston Boat Basin LLC which operates the Yacht Haven Marina and the condominium association at Commercial Wharf. Christopher Souza, Senior Director at Tavistock Development Group, stated that the company is working with the Commercial Wharf East Condominium Association (CWECA) in order to complete the Harborwalk. Tavistock holds a 50% interest in the Yacht Haven Marina.
James Zboril discussed the potential plan for reconfiguring the piles that the buildings currently sit on to create a more square building while maintaining the same surface areas. According to Tavistock’s representatives at the meeting, Joe’s currently stands at approximately 25′ high (although the company promised to clarify the height on their website). The new building would be 55′ tall, excluding the minimum base flood elevation and mechanicals.
Residents were very unhappy with the buildings’ renderings, fearing that the development would block off the view of the harbor for the hundreds of visitors that come to Christopher Columbus Park. Some at the meeting encouraged the company to build using materials consistent with the historic neighborhood.
“We’ve been here before, this isn’t our first rodeo. We’ve seen lots of developments come here and we know in order for you to make a profit, you have to build on a massive level. What you’re showing us now, which appalls many of the people in the room, is stage one isn’t it?” said one resident about the company’s proposal. “What we’re concerned with is stage two and stage three. You can’t make money unless you go high and you go wide.”
Several residents voiced their concerns about parking for a restaurant and hotel. Tavistock confirmed that the company holds approximately 37 deeded parking spots across two parking lots. Many were dissatisfied with that number, pointing out that the hotel is estimated to have 140 rooms and such a small number of spots would create problems for the area.
A father who attended brought up safety concerns with increased traffic in regards to his children who play in the Christopher Columbus Playground located near Joe’s. A Waterfront resident suggested that the company consider putting in underground parking to address the issue.
Other concerns raised regarded trash pickup, construction of the buildings, and shadows on the Christopher Columbus Park. Issues with potential delivery trucks and garbage trucks that would service the buildings were also pointed out.
Tavistock’s first public meeting hosted a full house with dozens of people attending to ask questions about their redevelopment proposal. However, many left without their questions being answered as the company has yet to fully flesh out their ideas. Their presentation revealed only conceptual ideas of an inn and restaurant along multiple buildings as well as a wide Harborwalk. To keep updated on their progress, please visit tcdboston.com.