Fan Pier refocus

The focus on waterfront development has shifted in recent weeks to the issue of neighborhood linkage payments. But the more important question remains the size, bulk, and public amenities of the building complexes that generate this money.

The Boston Society of Architects has arrived at a convincing answer. ''The allowable density is too great,'' it says in a letter to the Boston Redevelopment Authority. ''We are concerned that a considerable wall will be created along Old Northern Avenue, that the buildings are too large, and that there is inadequate open space.''

The architects' letter was referring to the Pritzker proposal for the Fan Pier. The BRA is now working on the Municipal Harbor Plan, which will set out the rules for development on the land. If the final document maintains the emphasis of an early draft, it will be tailor-made for the Pritzker plan.

The BSA believes that 2.1 million to 2.3 million square feet would be an appropriate build-out, compared with 3.1 million in the current plan, which includes stores and restaurants to encourage people to visit the pier. ''Street-level retail promises are not sufficient substitutions for relaxation of permanent height restrictions or open space requirements,'' the architects say.

BRA planners make much of the new streets that would be created in the development and include them in the open space total, but the architects hew to a different standard based on the city parks department, which ''only calculates the soft green space and active play areas. The architects also are worried that there are not enough housing units and that the density of the Fan Pier build-out, if replicated nearby, would place an intolerable strain on the transportation system.

The letter is also addressed to Bob Durand, the state environmental affairs secretary, who will have the final say over the Municipal Harbor Plan. But the City of Boston has prime responsibility for approving a plan that makes a profit for the developer while promoting public access to the waterfront. Durand should not be expected to do the city's work.

Mayor Menino has expressed support for the Pritzker plan, with a few modifications. He has acknowledged he made a mistake in approving the original linkage agreement. He ought to pay serious attention to the Society of Architects critique before allowing the BRA to continue on its present course.

This story ran on page A26 of the Boston Globe on 6/16/2000.

© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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