SAND core members met on Wednesday with representatives of Spaulding & Slye and Urban Strategies, the development partners and urban planners, respectively, for the Pritzker family focusing on the future of the 20-acre Fan Pier. Rather than presenting a fully developed plan for Fan Pier, the Pritzker team is meeting with many Seaport District's constituents to hear concerns and suggestions before embarking on a Fan Pier master planning process to begin early next year.
SAND presented its vision of the Seaport District as a Boston-scale neighborhood, with a strong residential component, a finely grained street grid, public access to the waterfront and public recreation space, adequate public transportation and many other community oriented amenities.
Urban Strategies presented a broad outlook of how Fan Pier could accomodate a Seaport District neighborhood. Although design plans are in a formative stage, the Pritzkers have indicated an interest in accomodating a significant number of residential units on their site. Both purchase and rental units are being considered. One large hotel or perhaps two smaller hotels will likely be among the first projects to move forward to serve the Boston Convention Center.
The street grid being considered is an extension of the existing Fort Point Channel pattern -- much smaller block sizes than the massively scaled proposal promoted by Boston Properties (the Pritzker's former development partners) earlier this year and shelved in March due to opposition. The new street grid may also reflect the historic fanned layout of railroad tracks that once were situated on the property.
SAND has requested that all streets be truly "public," to ensure that activites in the district do not have an antiseptic quality, or subject to approval by private interests. Urban Strategies indicated that it would serve all interests to have publicly owned streets and paths, and that much of the decision will be based on progress with the Public Works department.
Other topics discussed with Urban Strategies included activation of the harbor cove, building footprint sizes, densities and topologies, and pedestrian paths to and from the district. Spaulding & Slye indicated that it is moving forward immediately with the construction of a temporary harborwalk connection between the Federal Courthouse and the adjacent Athanas property. This path will enable pedestrians to get an early look at the Fan Pier site as seen from the water's edge.
Urban Strategies has met with the McCourt Company (plans of 3/98, recent news), owners of the parcel adjacent to Fan Pier, with an interest in developing a planning consensus among area property owners. The team has also met with the Boston Redevelopment Authority and urban planners Cooper Robertson & Partners. The BRA is expected to release the final Seaport District Master Plan in late October or early November.
Urban Strategies, a company with a proven record of success in a number of waterfront cities, has an ambitious and difficult charge in South Boston - to listen to the constituents for whom the waterfront will serve, to identify projects that make economic sense on the 20-acre site, and finally to adopt many of these ideals into a plan which is accepted by all.
SAND members are greatly encouraged by Urban Strategies' and Spaulding & Slye's preliminary concepts for the Pritzker property. We will participate in waterfront planning workshops and will monitor the progress of what we anticipate, based on our initial discussion, will be a vast improvement over past plans --and a meaningful step toward developing a true seaport neighborhood.