On April 12, SAND hosted a presentation of the McCourt plan for development of the Fan Pier and McCourt parcels.
Approximately fifty Fort Point neighborhood residents, business owners and interested parties packed the community's meeting room (roughly the same attendance as our meeting hosting the Pritzker's Fan Pier planning team in January of 1999).
The following SAND position letter was submitted to the Boston Redevelopment Authority on April 23.
April 23, 2000
Mr. Mark Maloney
The Boston Redevelopment Authority
Boston City Hall, 9th Floor City Hall Plaza
Boston, MA 02201
Dear Mr. Maloney:
On April 12, 2000, the Seaport Alliance for a Neighborhood Design (SAND) had the opportunity to meet with the McCourt Company regarding their proposal for the Fan Pier area. After hearing the presentation and reviewing the McCourt plan for combined development with the Pritzker properties at Fan Pier, it is clear that the McCourt plan creates substantial public benefits over the Pritzker plan and is more in keeping with the vision that SAND has articulated for the South Boston waterfront (see attached).
The McCourt Plan comes closer to the objectives of the city's own Public Realm Plan, which SAND has supported. Public citizens of the city and the region have invested $20 billion in the infrastructure of the area (harbor clean-up, Artery/Tunnel, Convention Center). Any development of the area must generate a public return on this public investment in the form of a varied, accessible and vibrant urban neighborhood. For these reasons, we encourage the city to seriously consider the McCourt plan as an alternative for the development of the South Boston Waterfront.
There have been several objections to the McCourt Plan, each of which has a reasonable answer:
1. The open spaces resulting from the McCourt plan will be empty and under-used, not sufficiently urban; besides, the harbor itself counts as a huge open space.
The major open space on the pier head designated is about the size of Christopher Columbus Park in the North End which is not empty and underused and it can be used by citizens of all income groups, even some who cannot afford a $6 latte. Referring to the harbor itself as usable public open space is misleading; the average citizen cannot access the harbor without a boat.
2. McCourt is being self serving because he would reap the majority of benefits.
The plan has clear public benefits in creating a significant open space on the Fan Pier, strong public access from the T station to the water, less height/density/shadow impact at the water's edge - these are undeniable public benefits. The specific distributions of the profits from the joint venture should be negotiable between the parties, but the Pritzkers and the City have to be willing to meet with the McCourt Company in order to negotiate.
3. The Pritzker plan is too far along, the city cannot afford to back away from it now, because then nothing will get built.
The Pritzker plan is in serious violation of Chapter 91 requirements, state approval of the Municipal Harbor Plan is less than likely and the Conservation Law Foundation is committed to challenging the plan in court. Under these circumstances "being further along" is an illusion. If the disagreements end up in court, very likely nothing will get built for many years. McCourt's idea of creative cooperation could be the chance to get something better done faster.
4. McCourt's plan shows some questionable spaces and forms, some look grandiose in plan and may not work very well in 3 dimensions.
Some of this is true, the plan could use finer scale and more interesting architectural development, but the plan is a good conceptual starting point. Better design could easily follow within this framework. By contrast, the inadequate open space and public realm in the Pritzker plan could never be remedied by further development.
5. McCourt's plan proposes more public space to be funded by less commercial development than the Pritzker plan.
The Pritzker team claims that they must have the density to make the numbers work, therefore the McCourt plan cannot be realistic. McCourt, who is also a developer, stated that his numbers will work. The Pritzker team has never fully disclosed the numbers that support their claim and there is no way for the public to know how much profit is built into their scheme. Let everybody put their cards on the table and have some independent, unbiased professionals examine them. For this, there needs to be a table, with the main parties sitting around it in serious discussion.
SAND believes that publicly-supported city and state planning regulations"not developers" should guide development; that is why we believe the McCourt plan warrants your attention. The McCourt proposal follows the city's Public Realm Plan and Chapter 91 regulations more closely than the Pritzker plan. The Pritzker developers attempt to justify their plan by saying they followed a public process, but this process did not yield public-oriented results as called for in the Public Realm Plan and Chapter 91.
SAND is committed to its mission to create a vibrant waterfront neighborhood on the South Boston waterfront and is willing to work with developers to further a publicly-oriented Fan Pier plan. We will continue to advocate for residential uses with a mix of affordabilities, community amenities, adequate public transportation, and significant open green space for recreation. These are basic rights for a public that has invested so significantly in the area's infrastructure. It is not too late to make the South Boston waterfront a destination that people of all walks of life will be able to enjoy and that our grandchildren will thank us for.
Thank you for the opportunity to share our concerns with you.
- Lisa Greenfield
- on behalf of the
- Seaport Alliance for a Neighborhood Design (SAND)
- 300 Summer St.
- Boston, MA 02210
- cc: Mayor Thomas M. Menino
- City Council President James Kelly
- Senator Stephen F. Lynch
- State Representative Jack Hart
Your comments as a visitor to the SAND website would be appreciated and forwarded for discussion.