To view an index of items regarding Fort Point 100-Acres planning, click here.
Presentation by Seaport Alliance for Neighborhood Design (SAND)
Zoning / Fort Point Neighborhood
Boston Redevelopment Authority / Fort Point Working Group
Boston City Hall, 6/20/2001
1) Introduction to SAND and a Neighborhood Vision
The Seaport Alliance for a Neighborhood Design is a community group of volunteers based in South Boston's Fort Point neighborhood, including residents, artists, architects and business owners interested in collaborating with planners and existing constituents to develop a comprehensive plan for the South Boston waterfront.
SAND's work is documented at www.seaportalliance.org
SAND has been involved in the waterfront planning dialog since 1997.
- Waterfront Master Plan (1997)
- Seaport Public Realm Plan (2000)
- Municipal Harbor Plan (2000)
With regard to the Fort Point district, SAND supports many of the principles expressed in the BRA's Seaport Public Realm Plan. This plan, developed through hundreds of meetings with the community, property owners, planners and developers, projects the Fort Point area to evolve as an urban neighborhood.
Today, the City enters a zoning phase for Fort Point, through a Working Group process required by the State in completion of a Municipal Harbor Plan.
SAND's involvement in the zoning process is founded on a public interest in planning. With private property rights is a more broad interest within a society to serve both public and private goals through planning. Zoning is the tool used to ensure such that such a plan is carried forth. We believe citizens must be engaged in the zoning process.
Why SAND sees Fort Point as a mixed-use neighborhood - SAND recognizes that Fort Point is changing, and the choices of both urban planners and market forces do not present an option for Fort Point being what it was in the past.
In the past, Fort Point moved forward as an extension of the Financial district, with office space as a primary use and existing users -the light and heavy industrial tenants including artists and manufacturers, seen as placeholders of "underutilized" space.
We expect planners to limit the creation of office space because unmitigated growth of office space in Fort Point is diminishing the utility of the district, the Fort Point industrial buildings, and the character and vitality of the waterfront.
As office workers inevitably continue to realize the value of spending a few days per week working at home, or perhaps being self-employed, the concept of constructing new office spaces designed for thousands of cubicles may, if outmoded and outdated, present building types poorly suited for adaptive re-use.
Fort Point, as a mixed-use neighborhood would serve as a strong and viable economic engine, one that contributes to the City and region more substantially and self-sufficiently than a monoculture of office or destination-related uses.
- Neighborhoods offer a 7-day 24-hour vibrancy and character.
- Increase in housing production would ease market pressure on existing neighborhoods, including the South Boston community.
- With regard to the creation of new office space, housing makes sense because of the value of walking to work.
- SAND Initiative: Plan Boston as a "Walk-to-Work" City
2) Mixed-Use Neighborhood / Housing Goals
As in the Public Realm Plan, we envision 4,000-6,000 housing units in the Fort Point district. These housing units must be a variety of types, supporting a wide variety of income levels.
To accomplish these numbers, we support Mayor Menino's Executive Order
- Minimum of 1/3rd large-projects as housing
- Maximum of 1/3rd large-projects office space
- Must be applicable to Wormwood Parcel, Casting Basin Parcel, undeveloped Post Office parcels in Fort Point slated for commercial development
Furthermore, the Mayor's executive order should apply not only to new development, but also to all large, single-owner parcels in the Fort Point Historic Subdistrict. These large-property owners should be planned in aggregate as "campus plans" or "Planned Unit Development" (PUD) areas rather than on a project-by-project basis.
As an example in this subdistrict, the Boston Wharf Company parcel may be considered among others. 1/3rd of Boston Wharf property, more specifically the buildings not already rehabilitated for office space, should fulfill the 1/3rd requirement, being slated for housing. And more definitively, these remaining industrial warehouses, many currently occupied by artists, should be zoned for artist Live/Work zoning applied to industrial warehouses.
By applying a "campus" plan to large, single-owner parcels in the Historic Subdistrict, the City would achieve a number of objectives:
- Contribute to housing goals of 4,000,000-6,000,000 sf
- Fulfill executive order
- Fulfill goals of 500,000 - 800,000 sf of industrial space for artists community
3) Zoning and Land Use, and Neighborhood Formation
The Fort Point Channel District is a unique neighborhood in use, composition and occupancy. Its best future must build from its current strengths.
Those characteristics are: a dense, compact neighborhood of similar type buildings; small blocks and narrow streets with multiple alleyway access; masonry loft buildings under ten stories and 100 feet high running flush with the sidewalk, and richly expressed, varied details; the spaces have high ceilings, ample daylighting through large, operable windows, and strong floors; rugged space that is readily adaptable to new uses.
Continuation of the dimensional regulations, including height and FAR, of the IPOD zoning 27P, of March 2, 1998.
District bounds are then, generally, the Fort Point Channel harborline, Seaport Boulevard, West Service Road, Summer Street, South Boston Bypass Road, West First Street, A Street, Mount Washington Street. The zoning district governed by these regulations should comprise the sub-districts, and sub-district portions: C- north of Mount Washington Street; D; E; M- East of A Street; and the portion of sub-district F South of Summer Street.
Prohibition of PDAs in any form.
Holders of large and multiple properties (totaling over 2 acres in aggregate) must file, and have reviewed and adopted, Planned Unit Development proposals prior to development or redevelopment of those properties within the district. This will permit the understanding of the aggregate impacts of large landholders projects and facilitate the mitigation and maximize the positive effects.
The historic value and importance of the existing buildings must be recognized and conserved. Demolition should be prohibited and appropriate preservation enacted.
Each building must contain multiple and varied uses on upper stories.
As of right uses should be restricted to the existing industrial, manufacturing, warehousing, and artisanal and live-work uses. All other uses not forbidden should be conditional, excepting ground floor facilities of public accommodation such as retail, restaurant and civic and cultural uses.
Each development or redevelopment should contribute 2% of development value as the direct costs for art installations on site, and available for public benefit.
Each development of over 200,000sf should contribute 5% of its net floor area to civic and cultural uses, in partnership with local non-profits.
The Fort Point district must provide equally for the needs of residents and businesses, while taking care not to detract from the viability of existing industries and marine dependant uses of the port area.
There should be the provision and siting of municipal services, and cultural needs, at no less than an equal level to other neighborhoods of Boston. Those services need to be sited and constructed in tandem with the projects (and actual) growth of the district. These include, but are not limited to: police, fire, emergency services, libraries, schools, health and recreation centers, parks and churches.
Care needs to be exercised in the creation of spaces that encourage the location of the retail and other services which are essential to the integral functioning of a neighborhood. Most daily errand and activities should be able to be found within the district.
The opportunity is to create a neighborhood which is equal or superior to any other part of the City. We have not had such an opportunity for 50 years and we will not have another equal to this for a very long time.
4) Open Space and Public Access
Open space is an important part of any neighborhood. How we plan our open space can define the feel and set the tone for how a neighborhood will evolve. When a developer markets a building, they rarely show a surface parking lot, or a skyscraper in the background of their drawings. They reference a park, or tree lined streets. There is no mystery why they do this. They are trying to sell an environment where people will want to be. Whether it surrounds office or residential, the external environment is critical in how we experience our day to day life.
So how can we enhance the Fort Point Neighborhood with open space? Much of the land in this discussion falls within Chapter 91. Chapter 91 sets guidelines, as does the City as to what is an appropriate amount of open space. We need to figure out how to use these guidelines and establish a continuous, legible, ample, and high quality public realm. Chapter 91 requires that 50% of lot area be open space. The city recommends 5.5 acres of open space per 1000 residents. SAND supports 4 to 6 thousand residents in this district. Based on the 5.5 acre per thousand this would suggest over 20 acres of open space. We would be happy with half of that in this district.
We need cooperation from landowners and a commitment from the city to create aggregate open space, and a series of pocket parks that create visual and logical connections through the neighborhood. In addition we need to establish what open space is. If private landowners are required to provide the infrastructure of streets and sidewalks, we need to determine what percentage of this can come out of the open space requirement. Real, useable open space must comprise the largest portion of this 50% requirement.
Through planning we can find the best location for this public space.
The Fort Point Esplanade, a 3.5 acre park established in the Public Realm Plan was the result of an engaging community process and reflected the need for a signature space in this evolving neighborhood. It provided an effective visual and physical link between the Convention Center and the Channel.
But somewhere between the Public Realm Plan and the Municipal Harbor Plan, this signature esplanade disappeared. And the community effort behind the Public Realm Plan took a back seat to closed door meetings. The resulting open space in the MHP lacks cohesion, visual impact and any input from the existing and future community.
We need to go back to the Public Realm Plan and respect the input and the results of what was a truly public process. The Fort Point Esplanade can be part of the solution of how to aggregate the open space required by Chapter 91 and help the city achieve its goal of 5.5 acres of open space per thousand residents.
In addition to a signature open space, pocket parks are an important part of any open space plan. Parks such as the one on Mt Washington Street were the focal point of numerous meetings and should not be dismissed.
Links between the Convention Center and the Fort Point Channel are critical in activating the Fort Point side of the Convention Center and bringing people through this neighborhood to the water's edge. This is equally as important as the connection from the front door of the Convention Center to the Harbor. There also should be visual and accessible links through the Fort Point Neighborhood to the new ICA and the Fan Pier. Well planned bike lanes and tree lined streets will encourage movement and connections through the district.
In addition to providing open space we need to ensure that these spaces are "truly public". The City should be responsible for the streets, sidewalks and parks. This will ensure that the nature of these spaces remain fully accessible 24 hours a day. Services and maintenance of these spaces should be required of the City. In cases where public/private partnerships are favored, or private landowners are required to provide and maintain open space, there should be 24 hour public easements. People tout Post Office Square as the working example of a city park. It is a beautiful space, but it is not truly public. When I am walking my dog, I am told by security guards to walk around, not through it. We need a truly public "Public Realm"
Along the Channel there needs to access to the water at least every 500 feet, so that people can move in and around the waters edge making the Harbor Trail part of the district where people can get on and off the trail and enter the neighborhood without being impeded by massive buildings blocks or fences.
Our vision, in SAND, is to build a neighborhood and open space system that is welcoming to everyone. We must create significant connections between the surrounding neighborhoods and the waterfront through routes that are bike and pedestrian friendly. Our parks should provide a sense of freedom. Open space should be fully democratic providing the neighborhood a place to congregate, where parents can bring their kids to play, workers can sit and eat their lunch, and dogs can catch a frisbee.
5) Traffic and Transportation
The goals and purpose of the transportation network are to move people, goods and vehicles to, from and within the district with a minimum of congestion, maximum efficiency, and in as pleasant a fashion as possible.
Transportation facilitates the goals and benefits of the district. The district must not be reshaped to the service of transportation.
The network needs to be of sufficiently fine grain that it can provide adequate service for each need at their point of use within the area.
We must balance the competing needs for use of the limited public realm, and take care to avoid overbuilding or emphasizing one mode of transportation at the expense of other values. What we give to the car, we must take from some other value we cherish.
We should learn from the lessons of Los Angeles that there is no limit on the claim that autos might make on the city, and magic bullet for the problems of congestion. At root, congestion is a symptom of success.
If the roadway network is overscaled we will induce more traffic than the district can accept, and we will preclude the ability of other transportation modes to contibute their maximum value.
We must provide the greatest flexibility to accomodate and provide for changing future needs and requirements of the district.
Development and the roads of this district must minimize impacts on the remainder of South Boston, particularly the Broadway/ A Street area.
No changes in use or operational effectiveness of the South Boston Bypass Road, opening it to general traffic can be contemplated. Trucking dependent operations and the viability of the BCEC, CA/T & TWT, BMIP, and Logan Airport operations are at risk with any change.
The existing area parking freeze should be renewed and toughened. Asthma is a serious health issue in South Boston.
There should be no surface or above grade parking facilities.
Parking should only be permitted as an accessory use.
Effieciencies should be encouraged in the use of structured parking, permitting uses to shift throughout the day, and hot bunking of spaces.
The BRA and BTD ratios for parking provision should be restated to indicate maxima at the current minima.
On-street parking should be maximized as permanent and protected, with sufficient uses and the ability to vary in use with time of day.
High residential occupancies within the district permits walk to work commuting, and commuting in reverse to the major traffic movements, increasing the efficiency of the roadway network and reducing congestion.
Every effort should be made to maximize the use and reach of public transportation.
Every effort should be made to maximize pedestrian and bicycle transport modes.
Within rights of ways, roadway should be minimized and sidewalks maximized, and designed to host multiple uses.
The public realm should be well and fully appointed with functional street furniture, encouraging walking and use of the public realm.
Transportation management plans should be required for all large projects. The effectiveness of the plans should be tracked and evaluated to determine attainment of targets for vehicle use reductions. Any shortcomings must be rapidly corrected.
6) Integration with Artist Community
The Urban Context
Artists and the arts function in many different ways. Significant thinkers throughout history have promoted the place of art and beauty in society, including Alexis de Tocqueville, who stated that "Democratic nations will habitually prefer the beautiful and they will require that the beautiful be useful." (Democracy in America, 1835). In its comprehensive vision of Fort Point neighborhood-planning SAND advocates and concentrates on involving artists in the planning process. Art in public places or public art can be defined as art with a purpose. It is tantamount to study and understand how the public residents, visitors, employers and employees, etc. relate to and use the City, particularly in the context of Boston's own aspirations to be a world-class city. World-class cities attract because significance of place sets them apart. Mostly, they are known for their unique artistic and cultural attractions. Many cities have successfully used arts and culture as a vehicle and centerpiece for urban renewal and pay special attention to neighborhood identity through public art programs (Philadelphia, Seattle, New York City, Berlin/Germany). Because of its unique history and long-term presence of artists in Fort Point, SAND proposes that art should serve as centerpiece and symbol of neighborhood identity.
Respecting the History of Artist Presence in Fort Point Channel
Artists have made Fort Point Channel a desirable and safe place to be. They function as incubators of economic revival, not just in Boston but nationwide (South End/Boston, Miami Beach/Florida, Soho and Chelsea/New York City). The existing artist live/work and work spaces in Fort Point are ideally suited for artistic creation, because buildings have
- (1) weight-bearing floors,
- (2) access to freight elevators,
- (3) stimulation of the urban environment with easy access to arts and culture, and
- (4) an ideal level of cooperation and collaboration in this true community is possible. This is evidenced by events such as open studios, initiated as the first in the country by the Fort Point Arts Community (FPAC) or, First Night, which was developed by Boston artists as a celebration of the arts that has become a national and international model.
This organically grown community cannot be relocated! Just like the deep-water port is projected for maritime use, artists need protection of their 'industrial zone'. One of the current industries of Fort Point are indeed its artists, each one of whom can be considered a small business.
The Fort Point arts community functions as an incubator for artistic talent. SAND believes in fostering artists and creative individuals, who need opportunities, rather than displacement. The Fort Point arts community needs critical mass to effectively exist, and a supportive, collaborative environment, rather than displacement. Many of the 500 Fort Point artists are currently in their 20s, 30s and 40s at a stage of career growth. You could say, the best is yet to come.
A Need for Art in Public Places
Public art projects offer community building and civic opportunities for collaboration and participation of and by the community, organizations and individuals/residents. Public art is part of our public history, part of our evolving culture, and part of our collective memory. It reflects and reveals our society and adds meaning to our cities. As artists respond to our times, they reflect their inner vision to the outside world, and they create a chronicle of our collective public experience. Art in public places reflects our powerful and insistent desire for public expression.
Why Artists Should Participate
Key reasons for artist involvement in neighborhood planning are to
- create a quality visual environment
- inspire civic pride
- respond to the local environment
- celebrate the community's and City identity by creating a unique district that will be known locally, nationally and internationally
- commemorate "untold" histories
- invigorate public spaces
Recommendations and Anticipated Results
SAND recommends creating partnerships between artists and the City, BRA, developers, and landowners. Artists' participation on design teams will result in an opportunity for planners, designers and artists to create a legacy for future generations. SAND sees this process as an opportunity for artists and all constituents to work in a responsive approach to the planning of the Fort Point neighborhood. In this cooperative process the City's and landowners' goals and artistic vision are balanced, and both are treated as important. SAND sees this as a way of working in supportive and positive relationships between developers, city and community.
Your comments as a visitor to the SAND website would be appreciated and forwarded for discussion.