© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

No sir, Mr. Pritzker

By Steve Bailey, Globe Staff, 10/18/2000

I give it a perfect 10 for a world-class belly-flop.

Let me see if I have this right. Nick Pritzker, a rich guy from Chicago, flies into Boston for a day to tell us if you don't give me what I want, when I want, I'm going to take my checkbook and go home. Yes sir, Mr. Pritzker, we'll get right on it! And what would you like done about Carl Everett, sir?

It is a level of unsophistication that boggles the mind. Mr. Pritzker's decision to ''draw a line in the sand'' by giving Robert Durand, the state's environmental affairs secretary, a Nov. 15 deadline to OK his city-by-the-sea on the James M. Kelly Waterfront isn't going to get him where he - or we, for that matter - want to go.

No, by insisting on such a narrow window, Mr. Pritzker has assured himself one of two answers: No, which no rich guy ever wants to hear. Or yes, in which case he can expect the Conservation Law Foundation and its allies to file a suit by December designed to stop him in his tracks. Your bankers will love that, sir.

The shame is that it doesn't have to be this way, Mr. Pritzker. No one wants the waterfront developed more than those of us who live here. But we are not desperate; we are not some flat-on-our-back backwater begging for out-of-town dough. This is Boston, one of the hottest markets in the country, and you are sitting on Fan Pier, the jewel of our new waterfront.

I am very weary of hearing how many community meetings your people have attended, Mr. Pritzker, and how many changes you have made in the project. The fact is you and your Chicago bean counters have not budged off 3.3 million square feet of development. While the design is certainly better this time around, there is even more development in this plan than your very bad scheme that collapsed in 1997.

Tell us not that you can afford no more compromises, Mr. Pritzker. You won Fan Pier in a lawsuit along with $34 million in cash from the sale of land for the federal courthouse next door. Will reducing heights and density pinch your returns? You bet. But there will still be money to be made.

Bob Durand needs to be given room to find a third way, a path between yes and no. And if that takes some time, so be it. This frenzy about missing the business cycle is bogus. If the project makes sense on Nov. 15, it will make sense in January or February, too.

The most remarkable thing is that no one is saying this is a bad project, flush it down the chute. Boston wants this project. We're not talking about a split between the Israelis and Palestinians here. But it will require real compromise.

In Chicago, Mr. Pritzker, it might be enough to have the mayor in your corner. This is not Chicago. Every developer must deal if he wants to build. Even you.

Can we talk now, Mr. Pritzker?

Can New England support an environmental newspaper? A group led by former Globe publisher Benjamin Taylor has been working on just that proposition over the last three months with the Conservation Law Foundation.

The idea would be to remake the foundation's quarterly Conservation Matters into an independent biweekly, New England-wide tabloid along the lines of the Maine Times or the High Country News in the Rockies. Taylor won't comment, but Doug Foy, the CLF's president, says the group has spent some ''serious time'' on the project and is currently working on a business plan and talking to venture capitalists.

The venture has a decided Boston Globe feel. Taylor was recruited to the project by former Globe editor Tom Winship, who is on CLF's board. Winship has also rounded up some of his old pals, including Maine Times founder Peter Cox, former Keene Sentinel publisher James Ewing, and writer Jane Holtz Kay.

This story ran on page E01 of the Boston Globe on 10/18/2000.

© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

Your comments as a visitor to the SAND website would be appreciated and forwarded for discussion.