SAND Questions for the Boston Civic Design Commission (BCDC)
- Regarding the composition of the Boston Civic Design Commission: Why is an architect who is professionally engaged in the design and planning of a large development project on Congress Street serving on the BCDC in the consideration of a neighboring Melcher Street project? At a minimum, don't Boston Globe readers deserve to know which architects are actively pursuing or developing Fort Point projects and which are serving on a Commission that makes advisory recommendations to the the Mayor and BRA?
- Why was the Archon/Goldman Master Plan proclaimed as a triumph in 2007 by the BCDC and BRA, and trumpeted in the Boston Globe as a "bold vision", yet allowed to be quietly abandoned when actual project proposals rolled in?
- What changes have the BCDC or BRA recommended over the past decade that would result in a mixed-use neighborhood with office space moderated with a proportionate amount of residential and other urban neighborhood uses? Thanks to BCDC and the BRA's zoning variances, 100% of the south side of an entire Boston street will now be 100% office and commercial use -- no residential, civic or cultural uses despite the BRA's public statements about how that agency uses approval of zoning variances to promote development of mixed use neighborhoods.
- Why does the BCDC routinely approve building additions on top of historic buildings without making recommendations for changes to reflect a measure of consideration of the district's pending landmark status and pending setback guidelines?
- Why isn't a faux-industrial masonry infill -- one that would require the elimination of dozens of historic windows and two potential café -seating outdoor courtyards, a design that the BCDC considers mediocre?
- What is the BCDC's long-term vision for the Fort Point District? Why aren't planning objectives published for public scrutiny?
Does anyone need to know the answers to these questions, or should we simply expect to read rave reviews for each "sensitive" shanty addition and steroid-injected infill bulging out of Fort Point's historic buildings -- drafted by the architects at BCDC and office-space cheerleaders at NAIOP -- year after year?
The Boston Globe
February 9, 2008
New focus for Melcher Street project
Slow housing market leading developer to shift to offices, shops
By Thomas C. Palmer Jr.
A Fort Point Channel area redeveloper whose ambitious plans for the neighborhood have been stymied by the crippled housing market is proposing to convert three historic buildings on quaint Melcher Street into offices and retail space.
In the biggest redevelopment phase yet of the portfolio of buildings it bought from the Boston Wharf Co. in 2005, Archon/Goldman is turning its attention from residential properties to the healthier commercial real estate market.
The partnership is set to file plans Monday to redevelop 233,000 square feet at 49, 51, and 63 Melcher St., on the south side of the narrow Fort Point Channel way. The estimated cost is $50 million.
Under the plan, the industrial buildings - some of which became artists lofts - would house offices plus 36,000 square feet of retail shops and restaurants on the ground floors of all four sides of the buildings.
Earlier, Archon/Goldman, which includes Archon Group LP and Goldman Properties Inc., sold what had been planned as its first major neighborhood improvement - a pair of Summer Street buildings slated to be luxury condos. Those former warehouses at 316-322 Summer St. will now be renovated for office use.
"The street-level retail is a key component to this project and a continuation of what's going on in all of the Boston Wharf area," John M. Matteson, regional director of Archon Group LP, said of the Melcher Street plans.
The retail development will be man aged by Goldman, which was active in the development of the Soho neighborhood in New York.
Melcher is a hockey stick-shaped way that connects Summer Street with A Street. The three brick buildings include a nine-floor structure flanked by two five-story buildings. An enclosed bridge on the third floor of one of them crosses to the other side of Melcher.
The developers plan to add one floor to 51 Melcher, the nine-story building, and fill in empty lots at the back of the buildings, near Necco Court, increasing the total usable space from an existing 188,000 square feet.
Melcher Street has been planned as a location for shops and galleries, part of a mixed-use district of businesses, residential buildings, and night-life establishments that would attract residents and visitors to the area at all hours. Architect Joel Bargmann of Bargmann Hendrie + Archetype Inc. of Boston, described adjacent Necco Court as "sort of a dingy, messy court" that would be much improved by the planned redevelopment.
Plans and drawings will not be formally submitted to the Boston Redevelopment Authority until Monday, but the project was considered at this week's Boston Civic Design Commission meeting. It won rave reviews before being unanimously approved.
"It's a very good strategy. It's a very nice project," said commission member David Hacin.
Ed Tsoi, chairman of the commission, commended the developer for its "care and finesse. . . . What it's doing to bring life back into the Seaport district is extremely valuable," Tsoi said.
In a recent letter of intent to the city, the developer said it wanted to repair the historic facades of the brick buildings and add new windows and roofs.
Justin Krebs, a principal at Normandy Real Estate Partners, welcomed the proposal. He said his company has been concentrating on redeveloping the Summer Street side of two buildings it purchased from Archon/Goldman last year.
"Part of what Archon's proposing will help lead us on the other side of Melcher Street," said Krebs. "The whole game plan they thought of, creating a retail corridor, makes some sense there."
Thomas C. Palmer Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.
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