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This story ran on page D1 of the Boston Globe on 1/8/2003.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

Massport offers waterfront land
Up to 12 acres ready for S. Boston projects

By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., Globe Staff, 1/8/2003

Massachusetts Port Authority officials yesterday offered up to 12 acres of land and air rights for private development in the heart of the South Boston Waterfront, saying it could provide an anchor for new projects and fill in the city's sparsely populated new frontier.

An eight-acre parcel between Congress and Summer streets that is sliced into pieces by the Ted Williams Tunnel, the MBTA's new Silver Line, and the Massport Haul Road would support more than a million square feet of mixed-use development, Massport officials said.

The so-called Core Block of Massport property on the waterfront could include, at a developer's option, two other parcels totaling about four acres. The land is concentrated over and around parts of the major transit and highway projects that are being completed after a decade of work and billions of dollars of taxpayer expense.

Those transportation facilities complicate development - about a third of the area offered would be constructed over one new corridor or another. But officials said such facilities also would make the land mass that Massport is offering an example of ''smart growth'' because people would be able to get in and out easily.

''To permit, design, and develop this is probably a four-year-minimum process,'' Massport chief development officer Lowell Richards said yesterday. ''We are now confident the transportation infrastructure is there, and there's no reason to wait any longer.''

Massport's ''request for interest and qualifications'' from developers comes at a time when economic signs continue to appear dismal and little development is starting on the waterfront, despite considerable construction activity that continues, having begun before the economy turned.

But Richards defended the timing. ''If anybody can tell you what the real estate market is going to be in five years, they're not going to be in real estate, they're going to be placing bets in Las Vegas,'' he said. ''This type of very large development has very little to do with the regional economic cycle.''

Richards said responses are due in March, followed by a call for project proposals and selection of a developer later this year.

The Massport plan envisions a hotel, retail space that could include a large anchor store, entertainment and cultural activities, a midprice hotel, parking for 1,700 cars, housing, and possibly office space. The development, mostly between D Street and World Trade Center Avenue, would provide a bridge between the new Boston Convention & Exhibition Center on Summer Street and the increasingly developed waterfront where the World Trade Center is located.

Massport officials said they are seeking ''a major year-round destination of regional and local draw ... and a critical mass of residences.'' Some of the buildings could approach 20 floors in height.

Mark Maloney, director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, said Massport's plan is consistent with recent Seaport area planning efforts and could spur further growth in an area poised to expand but stalled by a general business slump.

Acknowledging that the timing could be better, Maloney said, ''We have to look forward. As soon as it can possibly be afforded by the economy, we will be prepared to have it move forward, which is the best we can do.''

Maloney said the city's idea is that ''this could be larger retail that could `center' the whole potential retail operation in the South Boston Waterfront,'' a department store or a supermarket. That anchor store, with a floor-plate area of 60,000 square feet or more, would act as what some retailers call a ''bell cow,'' a magnet for smaller stores and businesses.

Massport's ''core block'' is an assemblage of about a half-dozen parcels that officials would lease on a long-term basis to a developer. It is the largest piece of Massport's 60-acre Commonwealth Flats development property, part of what officials said was almost 7 million square feet of multiple-use development completed, underway, or in the permitting process in the area.

The BRA estimates that about 30 million square feet will be developed from the Fort Point Channel east to Commonwealth Flats.

Besides the $600 million convention center, Manulife Financial is well along in construction of a building on nearby Massport land, and Joe Fallon is starting work on a Marriott Hotel and residential and retail complex on D Street.

The huge Fan Pier mixed-use development near the new federal court house is ready to go, awaiting financing before the first of several phases that are expected to total almost 3 million square feet.

Although the Massport document calls for a variety of specific uses, it emphasized: ''Responses should ... strive to create a compelling vision for the site'' and ''should in no way feel limited to the layout ... Massport established during its planning process.''

Massport operates Logan Airport and the Port of Boston.

Even the suggested hotel site, across Summer Street from the convention center, isn't set in stone, officials said. Some office use is possible, though Massport is not encouraging it because other sites it controls are more likely for that use.

The area advertised yesterday will be accessible not only by the Silver Line, Richards said, but also by ramps directly to I-90 and the Ted Williams Tunnel.

Thomas C. Palmer Jr. can be reached at

This story ran on page D1 of the Boston Globe on 1/8/2003.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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