Monday May 15, 2000

This story ran on page C01 of the Boston Globe on 5/13/2000. © Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

A new development
Reported sale of S. Boston site marks stop in waterfront evolution

By Richard Kindleberger, Globe Staff, 5/13/2000

Another big step in the evolution of the South Boston Waterfront has begun with Boston Wharf Co.'s reported agreement to sell several blocks of its aging brick warehouses on Fort Point Channel for redevelopment.

Alan Leventhal's real estate company, Beacon Capital Partners, has committed to buying 800,000 square feet of Boston Wharf property on A and Midway streets, sources said yesterday. Unlike the warehouses his company is converting to condominiums on nearby Wormwood Street, these buildings would be upgraded for office use, according to the sources.

News of the deal raised an immediate outcry from Fort Point artists, who are being squeezed by rising rents and had hoped to acquire one of the buildings. If the deal goes through, it ''destroys our entire community,'' said Becky Dwyer, a painter.

''This comes as a total and complete shock to us,'' Dwyer said. Her group, the Fort Point Arts Community, has been trying to develop work-live space to supplement the artist cooperatives at 249 A St., where she lives, and 300 Summer St. While artists in the co-ops are protected against rent spikes, many more rent on the open market and are exposed.

Acquiring the buildings Beacon has under agreement would more than triple the company's Fort Point real estate and fill in another piece of the district's emerging future.

Daniel O'Connell, a Spaulding & Slye principal who is managing the development planned for Fan Pier, saw the Beacon initiative as positive. He said the company has already shown its commitment to the mixed-use development favored for the Fort Point area. Converting these pending acquisitions to office space ''would be another step forward for the area,'' he added.

Vivien Li, executive director of the Boston Harbor Association, wasn't so sure. She saw Beacon's move as a sign the district is moving away from its traditional strength in industrial and water-related uses. ''That may not be a bad thing,'' Li said. ''The question is: Where are these displaced industries and businesses supposed to locate?''

A number of questions like that went unanswered yesterday. Alex McCallum, a Beacon spokesman, declined to comment. Robert Kenney, Boston Wharf's general manager, could not be reached.

News of Beacon's pending purchase comes on the heels of other major Fort Point real estate developments this week. A source said Boston Wharf has agreed to sell 10 acres west of A Street to the Gillette Co., its neighbor to the south. And it was announced that Gillette had dropped its legal challenge to the zoning change required by Beacon to build its Wormwood Street condo project, which is scheduled to open next month.

Beacon is the company Leventhal started two years ago after selling its predecessor, Beacon Properties Corp., to Equity Office Properties Trust of Chicago for $4.4 billion.

Boston Wharf, with 3.5 million square feet of built space as of the mid-1990s, is Fort Point's largest property owner. Some of its warehouse space already has been converted to office use, particularly by a rapidly expanding Thomson Financial Networks.

Boston Wharf is owned by the London-based Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co., a global shipping and transportation company that also has substantial real estate interests.

The Boston Wharf buildings that Beacon wants to buy come with 7.5 acres of land and stand in two long, parallel rows. Midway Street, a private way owned by Boston Wharf, runs between them.

The buildings, built early in the 20th century, appear shabby. A couple of smaller ones are vacant and boarded up. Although most of the structures are six stories, the buildings apparently are served only by freight elevators.

Jane Deutsch, president of the Fort Point Artists Community, said developing offices in the A Street buildings Beacon wants would displace artists' studios as well as prevent developing live-work space there. She guessed the buildings might contain 100 artists.

''People are totally devastated,'' Deutsch said. If the district develops no housing beyond the artists' co-op where she lives at 249 A St. and the two buildings of ''high-end condos'' on Wormwood Street, she added, ''it's hardly what the city envisioned for Fort Point as a community.''

This story ran on page C01 of the Boston Globe on 5/13/2000. © Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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