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Navy Yard (Boston) residential project nears appro

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Contested Navy Yard residential project nears final approval

Mark Micheli

Journal Staff

The controversial Harborview Point residential development proposal in Charlestown is expected to overcome its last major hurdle this fall, according to city and state officials familiar with the project.

The 215-unit proposal on one of the last waterfront lots in the Charlestown Navy Yard is expected to receive Chapter 91 approval by late fall, according to a spokesman in the state Department of Environmental Management. Chapter 91 regulations are used by the state to protect the public's access to waterways.

"This is the last major hurdle," according to John Brennan, an attorney for New York developer Martin Oliner of LDA Acquisition LLC. Brennan said he expects the project to be approved soon and that construction should start within the next year. He said a decision as to whether the project will consist of apartments or condominiums still has not been made, however, 10 percent of the units will be set aside for affordable housing.

The project, which received the support of the Charlestown Neighborhood Council and the approval of the Boston Redevelopment Authority late last year, was fiercely contested by some Charlestown residents because it will block the water views of other residents in the Navy Yard and make the area more congested.

"We looked into fighting it but the problem is it meets Chapter 91 guidelines," said Ivy St. John, a member of the Charlestown Waterfront Coalition, a nonprofit neighborhood group concerned with preserving and enhancing the Charlestown waterfront. "Harborview is in compliance with both design and zoning for that parcel."

St. John said the opposition was particularly powerful from newcomers and longtime residents. She noted that the project -- which is seven-stories, nine-stories and 11-stories high in various sections -- will block water views in other condominium buildings, most notably the three-story Basilica building and some of the row houses that are six-stories high or less.

Oliner scaled back the project in August 2002, from 250 units to 215, after residents objected to the initial plan. In compliance with Chapter 91 regulations, the first floor of the building will be completely accessible to the public and could contain public spaces such as a day-care facility, health club, art studio or retail stores. However, Brennan noted that it will be a challenge to find tenants that can run a successful business in that out-of-the-way location.

The project will also include 334 indoor parking spaces, more than an acre of new public waterfront open space with pedestrian amenities such as benches, lighting and trash receptacles, and the construction of a 550-foot long harborwalk.

Tom Cunha, chairman of the Charlestown Neighborhood Council, said the advisory group to the city is pleased with the current proposal, despite the fact that it will block some waterfront views of existing residents.

"The last person who bought a condominium wants to be sure they're the last one. But if they thought nobody else would be building (in the Navy Yard), then they were wrong," Cunha said. "As a matter of right, he (Oliner) could have built bigger. I think he was pretty responsive."

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