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This story ran on page A34 of the Boston Globe on 12/7/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

State approves $1b Fan Pier plan
Steven Wilmsen, Globe Staff, 12/7/2000

Jubilant city and state officials yesterday announced details of an agreement for a $1 billion new neighborhood on Boston's waterfront and said construction of the project could begin before the end of 2001.

After two years of bickering and political infighting, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Governor Paul Cellucci, and the state's top environmental regulator, Robert J. Durand, said the slimmed-down version of the proposal from developer Nicholas Pritzker would please even the staunchest critics.

The approval provides the final go-ahead for a nine-building complex of hotels, office towers, and condominiums on the Fan Pier. It will be the largest waterfront project in Boston's history.

With a ''wealth of open space'' to appease environmentalists and enough density in the project to give what city planners hope will be an urban feel, the agreement marks an historic moment, Durand said.

''Together, we have worked to produce a lasting legacy that our grandchildren and their grandchildren can be proud of,'' Durand said. ''We now have a wealth of open space and civic uses that will draw the public to the water.''

Pritzker representatives called the agreement a compromise, saying they are glad that the approval process is completed but adding that they still must examine details of the agreement and obtain financing in now tumultuous capital markets.

Menino hopes the new neighborhood, a key part of his vision for redevelopment of the area, brings new life and cultural activity to the mostly desolate industrial zone.

The agreement retains the blueprint, at smaller scale, of the Chicago hotel magnate's original proposal for the site. Pritzker agreed to cut the size of the project from 3.3 million square feet to 2.9 million, by shaving the size of five of the nine buildings proposed for the site. He was allowed to keep a smaller version of a centerpiece tower, though it will be cut from about 23 stories to about 15 stories.

A park on Old Northern Avenue known as the Public Green was doubled, to about 2 acres, making it what Durand called ''a magnificent signature park.''

Buildings along the harbor and cove were also slimmed down, opening up more space by the water. Streets that had been originally planned to separate buildings from the water were also eliminated and will probably be replaced with pedestrian walkways.

The proposed new Institute of Contemporary Art near the cove will become a higher, thinner building, creating still more space at the water's edge, Durand said.

In all, some 20,000 square feet of open space was added to the Pritzker plan during negotiations with Durand.

''Some folks out there thought it would never get done,'' Menino said. ''Today is one of those days when we can say this city gets things done. We stayed the course.''

The plan now includes enough open space to appease environmental groups, such as the Conservation Law Foundation, which had threatened to sue if the development remained as large as first planned. The specter of litigation increased pressure on Durand, while angering Pritzker, who had previously refused to slim down the project.

The Conservation Law Foundation, one of the staunchest critics during negotiations, hailed the plan as ''an enormous breakthrough for the City of Boston.''

''We're happy enough not to sue,'' said Stephanie Pollack, a senior attorney for the foundation. ''And that's how we judge happiness around here.''

While praising the deal, Pollack also said the foundation will continue to monitor development plans for the Fan Pier to make sure the deal doesn't change in the final stages of permitting and zoning.

''The history of the waterfront is promises made and then broken,'' she said. ''If we find at some future time they've gone back on what they said they're going to do, then we'll sue.''

Other critics also praised the plan, but some remain guarded.

''It's a good plan,'' said Vivien Li of the Boston Harbor Association. ''Time will tell if it's a great plan.''

This story ran on page A34 of the Boston Globe on 12/7/2000.

© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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