The Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) held a town hall-style hearing at the Long Wharf Marriott on Thursday evening to discuss the Chiofaro Company’s proposed Pinnacle at Central Wharf.
The room was filled to capacity with several individuals being turned away, prompting the BPDA to call for a repeat meeting of the hearing at a date to be determined. Chiofaro presented plans for their 600-foot, mixed-use tower, which can be reviewed in full in the project notification form (PNF).
According to the plans, the tower would have approximately 865,000 sq. ft. and the outside Harborwalk would be part of 28,000 sq. ft. of open space, meeting the 50% Chapter 91 requirement set forth under the recent Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Plan. There would be 200 residential units and 538,000 sq. ft. of office space, plus 42,000 sq. ft. of amenity space including retail and restaurant.
The Pinnacle project has not been without its share of controversy, with ongoing litigation and pressure from the New England Aquarium (NEAQ), the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), and Harbor Towers. Rob Caridad, representing Chiofaro, assured the audience that “the Chiofaro Company is open to hearing your feedback for a collective vision.” Indeed, the Chiofaro representatives faced many questions from concerned parties.
One of the most vocal voices of opposition came from Vikki Spruill, President of the NEAQ. Spruill had previously commented: “Is this the right kind of project for Boston at this moment in time, given concerns about inclusivity and climate change? We have a chance to do this right, and in my opinion, this is not that project.” At Thursday’s gathering, Spruill’s statements were aligned as such, stating that the NEAQ stood in staunch opposition.
Representation from Boston Harbor Now (BHN) expressed mixed opinions. On the one hand, BHN applauded the aspects of Chapter 91 inclusion, which had been considered in addition to the City’s efforts. Kathy Abbot, BHN President and CEO raised her own concerns stating, “It’s more than a catalyst we need,” in response to Caridad’s observation that the Pinnacle Project could serve as a noteworthy example of access, activation and climate resiliency.
George Bentley, professor and NEAQ volunteer, strongly urged caution and consideration regarding the potential buildup and flow of water beneath the Pinnacle project site. Bentley also expressed dismay at the possible adverse impacts resulting from another high-rise tower causing abrupt changes to nocturnal navigation patterns of birds, insects, and bats. Bentley concluded by remarking that, “It is a violation of everything we had previously believed and built upon—you don’t construct high-rises so close to the shoreline, the idea is to build them farther away.”
Jennifer A.P. Carso, an attorney from CMBG3 Law Firm, provided the most direct view of approval and also added, “There are two sides to every story. I don’t believe anyone in this room considers the current site to be an attractive building. It’s an eyesore as it stands. The question is, Where are we? Change brings out fear in others, as opposed to science and principles.”
While Ken, a Wharf District office worker, expressed concerns over blocked waterfront views, Evy, another Wharf District resident, argued to the contrary stating, “Compromise. We don’t have exclusive rights on our views.”
Bruce Berman, Save the Harbor Save the Bay’s Director of Strategy, acknowledged the persistence of those who have consistently attended over 46 meetings as part of the public engagement process and concluded his impartial statement observing: “It isn’t over. Nobody is here who doesn’t love the waterfront.”
Marc Margulies, President of the Wharf District Council, referenced the WDC’s Public Realm vision-defining efforts. Technical questions related to where utilities would be located/accessed for Harbor Tower residents as well as some confusion on the logistics/operations of the parking entrances were asked, with Caridad clarifying that “There is a midblock entrance which services inbound passenger vehicles, while outbound is reserved for vehicles enroute to the loading docks.”
The comment period has been extended to April 3rd 2020. BPDA agents repeatedly called for written comments to be sent in. As the process itself, in respect to Article 80, is currently in the Stage 2 phase, the present situation is still very fluid.