The residents and owners of Harbor Towers condominiums overwhelmingly oppose the proposal by the Chiofaro Co. and Prudential Real Estate Investments to replace the Harbor Garage with a development consisting of two towers, reaching about 650 feet and 550 feet high, and totaling 1.3 million square feet, Harbor Towers Trustees said.
Owners and residents representing 71 percent of the 624 condominium units in the two towers, home to more than 1,100 individuals including many families, have signed a petition supporting a well-documented letter of opposition to the Chiofaro/Prudential proposal that the Boards of Trustees of the two towers sent to the Boston Redevelopment Authority.
More than 550 people signaled their opposition to the plan by signing.
“We have been encouraging redevelopment of the Garage at some reasonable scale for more than five years now,” said Lee Kozol, Chair of the Harbor Towers Garage Committee. “We are gratified to have confirmed that the great majority of the people of Harbor Towers stand behind our vigorous opposition to this overwhelming project, which the Chiofaro Co. and Prudential continue to insist belongs here, only 90 feet away from Boston Harbor,”
The Committee is appointed by the 10 Trustees of the two towers and speaks in that capacity, as fiduciaries. The Committee and its professional consultants and legal team have conducted numerous unit owner and resident meetings since Chiofaro/Prudential first proposed redevelopment of the Garage block five years ago.
“We know that the sentiment of the vast majority of unit owners and residents expressed at these meetings and in communications is in opposition to the Chiofaro/Prudential proposal,” said Kozol. “That is evidenced by the large number of signatures on our opposition petition, and it should put to rest suggestions by the Chiofaro Co., and by some in the media, that Harbor Towers is divided on this issue.”
The Trustees informed City, Boston Redevelopment Authority, and state officials of this opposition sentiment in a letter sent on Monday of this week. Letters describing the opposition and copies of the petition were sent to Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Chris H. Busch, Senior Waterfront Planner for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and others. Kozol said that, considering letters from Harbor Towers residents and comments made at public meetings that support the large Chiofaro/Prudential plan, “We know of no more than a dozen people, out of more than about 1,100 of us in the Harbor Towers community, who are in favor of the currently proposed scheme of two towers and 1.3 million square feet.”
That complex, if completed, would constitute a floor area ratio of 23, while the average floor area ratio of buildings along the waterfront is less than 10. Floor area ratio, the industry’s metric for density, is a calculation of the total square footage in a building in relation to the size of the ground lot. Density is particularly important on the water side of the Greenway, because access and egress are limited to Atlantic Avenue. The Chiofaro/Prudential complex would contain more square footage than the Prudential Tower in the Back Bay.
Alternative Designs with a single tower by Architect George Thrush is to circulating the petition. Harbor Towers has engaged George Thrush, Director of the Department of Architecture at Northeastern University, to analyze the Chiofaro/Prudential plan, rendering images of its projected effects, including Harbor and Greenway accessibility, shadow, and alternations to the profile of the City from multiple directions.
Thrush has also conceived alternate ground plane (pedestrian) configurations, which unlike the Chiofaro/Prudential proposal would provide actual open space, as required by state law. Thrush’s alternative design configurations are of more modest – though not small – size. They include a single “point” tower rather than two bulky towers.
Finally, Thrush compared waterfronts in multiple other North American cities to Boston’s and documented that those cities all provide considerably more open space between their water’s edges and their closest buildings than would the Chiofaro/Prudential proposal.
Thrush and his team were engaged to concentrate on assessing whether the current proposal is appropriate for the location in size and scale. He spent more than two months examining what kind and volume of development would best serve the neighborhood, the public, and the future of Boston including both residents and visitors.
Reasonably scaled development is financial feasible on the Garage Block Harbor Towers as the community would like to see Chiofaro/Prudential or some future developer build an appropriately scaled project on the Garage site.
“Because we have not wanted to be in the business of opposing the current plan without the knowledge that something more modest is feasible, we engaged the services of two respected real estate professionals to examine how much development is required to make the demolition and replacement of the Garage economically feasible,” said Kozol.
Those real estate professionals concluded that, considering relevant factors such as current value, cost to build, and return on investment, redevelopment of the Garage is economically viable at 725,000 square feet, or about half of what the Chiofaro/Prudential team is presenting.
“They told us that being allowed to build that much would be considered a valuable business opportunity by any experienced developer,” said Kozol. Harbor Towers representatives have presented the conclusions of this detailed economic analysis, along with the Thrush presentation of design alternatives, to authorities at the Boston Redevelopment Authority.
“We have never heard any suggestion that any analysis has been presented to that agency or publicly anywhere to support the Chiofaro/Prudential assertion that 1.3 million square feet of development is needed make replacement of the aging Garage feasible,” said Kozol.
“We at Harbor Towers seek to have the Garage redeveloped in a responsible fashion, which means one that is consistent with the best interests of the City and the Commonwealth and consistent with firmly established public policies pertaining to waterfront development,” said Kozol. In their letter to the Boston Redevelopment Authority opposing the Chiofaro/Prudential plan, the Trustees of Harbor Towers cited several reasons. The Chiofaro/Prudential proposal violates the essence of Chap. 91 state law that protects the waterfront for the public, and it provides virtually no open space, in contrast to the 50 percent open space required by the regulations. It exceeds by hundreds of feet the height limitations set forth in zoning regulations and adopted as the Greenway District Planning Study Guidelines.
As important as any of that, the Trustees said, approval of the Chiofaro/Prudential proposal would create an indefensible precedent for future development along the waterfront.