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Climate Resiliency and Accessibility Dominate the Conversation at Harbor Garage Redevelopment Advisory Meeting

The Impact Advisory Group (IAG) for the Harbor Garage Redevelopment heard from the Chiofaro Company developers regarding their proposed project, Pinnacle at Central Wharf, as discussions for the controversial project continue.

The purpose of the meeting was to foster a discussion concerning the submitted project notification form (PNF) from the development team. Serving only as an advisor to the BPDA, the goal of the IAG is to identify potential impacts created by the project and discuss ways that those impacts can be mitigated, if possible.

Considered the City of Boston’s first attempt at reconnecting to the waterfront after the Central Artery, many critics have referenced the proposal’s large scale and bulk as a potential obstruction to waterfront views. The proposed plan has altered its project to include 50% open space, an important asset advocated for by stakeholders, but has not changed the 600′ building height.

The conversation at the IAG meeting centered around providing climate resiliency, creating an accessible waterfront, and addressing the area’s flooding through a series of mitigation tactics.

The Wharf District Council presented a video highlighting their vision for several sites along the waterfront area, including the site where the current Harbor Garage exists. The video prioritized a Harborwalk as a means to provide climate resiliency, encourage access to the waterfront, and serve as a flood barrier.

The Chiofaro Company has dedicated itself to strengthening the Harborwalk in an attempt to combat flooding that was seen most prominently in 2018. Drawing consideration from the BPDA’s Coastal Flood Resilience Guidelines, the development team has decided to follow the “habitat harborwalk” design from the resiliency toolkit.

Working alongside the expected renovations of the New England Aquarium’s “Blueway” concept, the vision for the Harborwalk would include a cantilevered overlook, Harbor ledge featuring four different habitats, and an interactive and educational feature.

The proposal also seeks to remove the existing traffic access point to the garage on Milk Street, converting the area to a promenade that prioritizes pedestrians and encourages access to waterfront amenities. Regarding concerns about the below-grade parking that the site must provide, the developers admitted they are still studying various means of access, which could include encroaching on BPDA-owned land.

One suggestion for offsetting traffic impacts possibly created by the project involved tapping into the potential of expansive water transportation at Long Wharf; a proposal that could connect to the waterfronts of Charlestown, East Boston, and South Boston.

In addition to the proposal’s 4′ elevated public plaza, the building itself will feature two levels of public amenity spaces with seating that offers elevated views of the Greenway. WDC President, Marc Margulies, suggested the developers provide more renderings regarding the open interior concept.

Other design details in the developer’s plans included building materials that would assist with interior insulation and a storm water management system. The reduction of 1,475 parking spaces to 1,100 spaces also aims at reducing carbon emissions by encouraging people to drive less.

Following a town-hall style meeting that reached capacity, the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) was prompted to extend the comment period to April 10th, 2020, and will host two open-house style meetings on March 16th and 23rd, 2020.

See our coverage of the Harbor Garage Redevelopment here.