© Copyright 2000 The Boston Herald

Audit rips Massport's $7.2M rehab of fish pier
by David Weber

Friday, May 12, 2000

Massport's failure to conduct a cost-effectiveness study before pouring $7.2 million into a Boston Fish Pier renovation has resulted in a measly return on its investment, according to a report by state Auditor Joseph DeNucci.

``Massport undertook this costly project without doing its homework,'' DeNucci said. ``If the proper research and analysis had been done, this valuable property could have been put to much better use and a lot of money could have been saved.

``As it stands now, there is little evidence that the project has been a success.''

DeNucci's audit found that the rehabilitated Exchange Conference Center, which was intended as a tool to promote trade and tourism, was used only 12 percent of the time for that prupose. Instead, it was used mainly to host private functions such as weddings, social events and unrelated business conferences.

The audit said the net profit from rentals during the facility's first 33 months of operation was $181,000. If Massport had taken the $7.2 million it spent on the conference center and invested it in U.S. Treasury notes, it would have earned $1.5 million, according to the audit.

``Had Massport done a thorough cost analysis, it might have come up with a better use for the site, such as an office building or hotel,'' said DeNucci spokesman Glenn Briere.

Massport officials yesterday defended the rehabilitation as more than a simple short-term monetary consideration.

Spokesman Jose Juves noted that DeNucci's audit even acknowledges that revenue generation was not the the primary prupose of the renovation.

``The point was to restore a historic building on the waterfront,'' Juves said, adding that the dilapidated old fish exchange had become a fire and safety hazard.

The building was built in 1915, and the renovation was completed in 1996.

Juves also said the Exchange Conference Center's value as a tourism and trade promotion tool cannot be properly measured while the South Boston waterfront is in the construction stage.

``Right now we are surrounded by parking lots and construction sites,'' he said. ``Once we get a convention center and more hotels in the area, the Exchange Conference Center will really begin to excel.

``This is really a long-term investment,'' Juves said.

DeNucci acknowledged that last year's agreement to allow Legal Seafoods to operate the facility as a function hall will modestly increase revenues, but said alternative uses might have been more lucrative.

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