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Financial District goes residential


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Financial District goes residential

As Kennedy Greenway plans advance, housing emerges

Tom Witkowski

Journal Staff

When the Broad Franklin Development Trust bought a parcel of land at 80 Broad St. a decade ago, the trust's vision was to build an office tower on the edge of the Financial District. But when the developers break ground on their project early in 2004, they will be building 96 condominiums instead.

The $60 million Broad Street project is just one of a number of residential developments planned for the streets on or near what will eventually be the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

As the Broad Franklin Development Trust awaits its final permits, a loft condominium proposal, part of a hotel and office building development a few blocks away, is about to begin the city's permitting process. A handful of other properties nearby are also preparing for, or are in the middle of, that process. Another developer has approval for a hotel and condominium project at 500 Atlantic Ave. and will break ground in January.

The developers have arrived downtown in full. Three of the larger residential projects planned will bring 276 condominiums to the neighborhood by 2008. Smaller projects will add to that number.

And as the city crafts a 24-hour residential neighborhood in the granite and glass canyons of the Financial District, those developers await their buyers.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority added to the momentum last week when the agency named urban designer Ken Greenberg of Greenberg Consultants Inc. to come up with a vision for the three park areas and adjacent development parcels that will replace the elevated Central Artery. The naming of Greenberg, who previously crafted a master plan for the Fan Pier, is a key step. Developers, whose projects are in some cases ahead of city and state schedules for completing the greenway, are counting on significant progress on the park to aid the marketing of their residential buildings, some of which will have prices of over $1 million per unit.

"You will have the highest-valued office, residential and hotel properties up and down the Rose Kennedy Greenway district," said Brian Fallon, managing director of New York-based Intell Management and Investment Co. and Intell Boston Harbor LLC, the developer of 500 Atlantic Ave.

Intell has an agreement with London-based Intercontinental Hotels Group for a 424-room luxury hotel, topped with eight floors with 130 luxury condominiums, a $300 million building constructed around what is a ventilation shaft for the new underground highway and bordered by the channel on one side and the greenway on the other.

"It's time to convert all the talk and all the dreams to the reality of what will be an elegant park system," said Fallon.

"I think we all would hope there would be enough financial resources committed to complete the park system. I would hope the political leadership would help bring closure to the financial commitments as well as the political governance commitments," Fallon said.

How the final greenway will be funded and what entity will oversee the land are two of the questions still hanging as the elevated artery is taken away piece by piece.

Near Fallon's project, Chicago-based Equity Office Properties Trust plans a $300 million renovation and development at Russia Wharf that will include 50 residential lofts overlooking the greenway, as well as a hotel and office building overlooking Fort Point Channel. The developer hopes to finish the project in 2008 and start selling the lofts in 2007. Equity's expectation is that the greenway plans will be coming to fruition at that time.

"I want to be marketing finished projects, an approved program and plan, a clean harbor, activity on Fort Point Channel," said Maryann Suydam, Equity's regional senior vice president in Boston.

While the final plans for the greenway are yet to be ironed out, the Boston Redevelopment Authority is optimistic and encouraging residential investment along the greenway and in the Financial District. Last year the agency devised a plan to entice owners of certain parcels in the Financial District to develop them into residential buildings. Many of the parcels are still available to be developed, said Mark Maloney, director of the BRA.

"As the highway has been coming down and huge amounts of green space are becoming visible, the reality is sinking into the marketplace," said Maloney.

What is not a reality yet is the final plan for the parcels of the greenway to be developed.

The YMCA of Greater Boston is waiting for a decision on whether it will have dibs on developing one parcel of the greenway, for example. Another parcel in question is outside 500 Atlantic Ave.'s front door. That land is slated for a $70 million botanical garden, to be developed by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Last month the nonprofit organization hired Linda Haar, a former BRA planning chief, to get the plan back on track. The proposal, and related fund raising, is behind where the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, the entity overseeing the Big Dig, wants it to be.

"The Mass. Hort parcels are definitely going to be developed for use by the public. I think their sense of use is understood, with the specifics being finalized. We do need to make sure the Mass. Hort plans move forward and get the funding to build their building," said Maloney.

Another part of the city's plan yet to fall into place is making the neighborhood more active 24-hours-a-day, instead of just during work hours. The two combination hotel and residential projects include amenities that will support a residential neighborhood, such as restaurants and small retail spaces. And the cluster of new projects on Broad Street and Atlantic Avenue increase residential density in the neighborhood, developers said. Several restaurants already exist in the area, and people have lived for years in the condominiums in Harbor Towers and Rowes Wharf, as well as lofts in the Leather District, Maloney said.

The pace of the greenway development has been criticized in the past, but what is perhaps the most significant sign of progress is already evident and giving developers more optimism, said Michael Rauseo, the trustee for the Broad Franklin Development Trust. At the end of Broad Street, a block from his condominium project, crews are cutting up the former southbound lanes of the elevated highway.

"Taking down the elevated artery," Rauseo said, "is our best advertising."

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Here's another article by our favorite reporter steve Bailey. I really can't understand why a strip joint and incredibly old and compromised theater should stay and a new building not be built. What is their reasoning? Maybe steve needs a reason to drink expensive pepsi and ogle Candy?

Build 'em high

By Steve Bailey, Globe Columnist, 12/17/2003

It would be ever so convenient if it was, in fact, all about Nicholas Romano and his naked girls.

Romano, a father of four, grandfather of 11, and North End florist by day, is by night co-owner of the Glass Slipper, one of only two strip joints still hanging on in Boston's Combat Zone. On this snowy night, when the girls far outnumber the patrons, Romano, 66, is explaining to me why the city is wrong to attempt to seize his club by eminent domain and replace it with a 300-foot tower that will attract the kinds of people to the neighborhood who can pay rents as high as $3,000 a month. I listen and sip, very slowly, my tiny $9 Diet Coke (ice and straw no extra charge).

"The mayor is trying to get rid of the adult entertainment area," says Romano, who has operated the Glass Slipper for almost two decades. Then he adds: "Look around. This place is a church. You'll find more going on in the movies." Maybe not if 18-year-old Candy, dressed in only her 5-inch heels, is doing what I think she is doing with that brass pole on stage.

The latest fight over the latest too-big development downtown is, in fact, about a lot more than getting rid of the Combat Zone. An unusual collection of disparate interests -- from Chinatown residents worried about gentrification to those who want to save the old Gaiety Theatre to those who want to preserve Boston's human scale -- have banded together to object to Kensington Place, another of the towers remaking Washington Street. And this month they found some unexpected support: The Boston Zoning Commission, a reliable rubber stamp for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, actually started asking some questions.

The issue was the BRA's push to have the Kensington site named a planned development area, a developer-friendly designation that would exempt the project from the 15-story zoning cap. The problem: Such so-called PDAs require an acre of land, and Kensington controls just about a half-acre. So the BRA and the developer included the streets around the project and property owned by an abutter.

Here, according to an account of the Dec. 3 meeting by Adam Smith, a reporter for the Sampan, a Chinatown newspaper, is what the usually docile zoning commissioners had to say about the BRA gymnastics:

"It sounds like we are being used," said commissioner Ralph Cooper.

"It's like a `planned development building' not a planned development area," said commissioner Pat Tierney.

"Why are we being asked to stretch the rules?" asked vice chairman Robert Fondren.

The BRA pulled the issue off the table rather than risk losing a critical vote. Kensington Place is expected to be back before the zoning commission this morning, and we will see just how much backbone the commission has. You can bet the mayor, or his minions, have been busy reeducating the commissioners.

The BRA is out of control, Kensington Place providing only the most recent example. It is an organization willing to game the system to get what the mayor wants. It holds endless community meetings but never wavers from its appointed mission. Its "master plans" are good until the next developer walks in the door. The money, the power, are always on the side of building bigger, not smaller. The opposition, with neither money nor power, can't fight City Hall. What we need is a counterweight to the BRA and what it has come to represent. Today's meeting is a good place to start.. . .

Neighborhood news. Before turnpike boss Matt Amorello went to Citizens Bank for $250,000 to fund his Pops party, he met with FleetBank CEO Chad Gifford. And Fleet being a bigger fish than Citizens, Amorello asked for $500,000, according to those familiar with that meeting. Gifford's wise reply: no sale.

Steve Bailey is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at 617-929-2902 or at [email protected]

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I doubt anyone knows yet what they will do next. I'm not completely against the city using money like this if in the long run it will profit from it.

I wish that they would build a tall thin tower at 80 Broad st for contrast and because of the scale of the amneties the neighborhood offers.

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That rendering of 80 Broad Street from Shooshihan(?) Engineering has to be the worst rendering ever, anyone have an update on what 80 Broad is supposed to look like?

I don't see why this building can't be taller at least 10 stories above the neighboring buildings, didn't Boston or the BRA pass a law that allowed residential towers to go higher in the Downtown area. Will this building have undergound parking?

I agree with some of the residents complaints about luxury condos but isn't it simple supply and demand. The more residents built(condo or rentals) the cheaper all of them get. The average person would like to see all new residential units be affordable but even more luxury units isn't that bad right?

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I read it will be 17 stories. Not huge, but big enough to be interesting, and not block the views of surrounding buildings. I've heard of a 400' limit for residential DT. Probably meaningless since what gets built doesn't ever seem to conform to rules. Millenium is 475', liberty place will be 300', kensignton is slated for 310'.

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