The Massachusetts Historical Commission has taken issue with the proposed height and massing of the Haymarket Hotel proposal for Parcel 9 by Normandy Real Estate Partners and Harbinger Development. In a January 26, 2015 letter, the MHC noted the proposed height far exceeds the 55 feet zoning limit that was set to protect the historic character of the Blackstone Block district.
MHC has determined that the proposed project will have an “adverse effect” on the Blackstone Block through the introduction of visual elements that are out of character with and alter the setting of this historic district. The proposed project height of the hotel (103 feet) far exceeds the height limit (55 feet) established by the Joint Development Guidelines by approximately 48 feet (which is nearly twice as high as the maximum height limit).
The Normandy Partners / Harbinger Development team originally won the designation in August 2013 with a proposal that included a hotel at 84 feet high, connected to a one-story market hall. The losing “Blackstone Market” bid included a design height of 104 feet with a residential concept by DeNormandie Companies and Cresset Group. Parcel 9 was created by the Big Dig along the Greenway by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDot) who is leading the development process.
After securing the designation from MassDot, the Normandy / Harbinger team subsequently increased the height of its design with the hotel building going from 84 feet to 103 feet. What was to be an 8-story, 180-room hotel became 10 stories with 225 keys. In addition, the market hall height was increased from 20 to 27 feet to accommodate a second story. In comments as part of the Article 80 review by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, these changes have been challenged by some in the North End neighborhood, including advisory committee member Victor Brogna who wrote a letter in November 2014 to authorities reviewing the design, including the Mass. Historical Commission.
Using input from an advisory committee, MassDot guided the design to have a low market hall on the North End side of the parcel that preserved views of the Blackstone Block. In exchange, the State authority said it would allow the design to go higher than the zoned 55 feet on the far side adjacent to Faneuil Hall. In addition, the advisory committee emphasized elements that would better accommodate the existing Haymarket pushcarts and renovate historic Blackstone Street.
The MHC is tasked with approving the design of new construction in accordance with guidelines developed for the Central Artery Project (Big Dig) that created the Greenway and Parcel 9.
The Blackstone Block is made up of a unique street configuration with two and three story buildings, built in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The streets are considered to be among the oldest in the City of Boston. The Blackstone Block is also protected as a historic district with listings in the National and State Registers of Historic Places.
The MHC letter, signed by State Historic Preservation Officer Brona Simon, ends by seeking design alternatives with “reduced heights and building reconfigurations in relation to the surrounding historic context of the Blackstone Block.”