To read a second Boston Globe editorial about related waterfront development violations, and the lack of City and State enforcement, click here.

This story ran on page D1 of the Boston Globe on 6/20/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.


Pity the developers
By Steve Bailey, Globe Staff, 6/20/2001

Les Marino and Harold Theran should start a support group. ''Hi, I'm Les, and I'm an abused developer.''

You remember ''More for Les'' Marino. He is the self-made Big Dig zillionaire who got caught adding an extra floor to the office building he was renovating at 470 Atlantic Ave., just one in a series of fast ones he tried to pull on the waterfront. He later asked me over to Cambridge to whine about the awful things people were saying about him. ''I could never write the kinds of things about you that you wrote about me,'' Marino told me. (Bailey to Marino: That's why you're a developer, and I am a columnist.)

Now there's Harold Theran. ''I'm feeling a little abused,'' Theran told me on the phone yesterday.

I kid you not. I was practically in tears as he told the story of how ''misunderstood'' he was in his efforts to make his fancy new Battery Wharf hotel and million-dollar condominium development a better place. Give Theran this: He is not a man who minds making enemies.

Take John Fish, president of Suffolk Construction Co. Fish spent 21/2 years in preconstruction work with the previous developer, only to get dumped by Theran the day before the groundbreaking. ''I like John Fish. I consider him a friend,'' Theran says. Believe me when I tell you Fish is still steaming.

And then there is the North End community, which spent ages negotiating the shape of the Battery Wharf project. With approvals now in hand from the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the state, Theran has suddenly abandoned important promises to make his ritzy development accessible to the rest of us.

The centerpiece public garden at the water's edge, for instance, has been cut in half to lengthen the driveway for the limos and Mercedes headed to the hotel and condos. A public viewing area in a condo building has disappeared. Another area set aside for public seating has turned into seating for a restaurant. And on and on.

Theran knew exactly what he was buying and the trade-offs that had been negotiated when he bought this long-delayed project from Raymond Property Co. The regulatory approvals that came with the project, in fact, were an important part of what he bought. And now the project doesn't work, he tells us?

Every project evolves as it moves closer to reality. But across the board, Theran's changes have the effect of limiting public space and access. Neighbors and regulators have to be flexible. But so do developers. Theran can't just take back; he has to give back, too. And that hasn't happened.

''They think we have taken something away,'' Theran says. ''We have taken nothing away.''

Then why does the whole thing feel like bait-and-switch to everyone but the developer?

Make no mistake. Battery Wharf is good for the city, and it has been too long in the making. The project will include a 185-room luxury hotel operated by Regent International Hotels, 99 pricey condos, 33,000 square feet of retail space, and a marina.

But the city and the state need to make Theran, Marino, and developers like them stick to their promises. The state Department of Environmental Protection, for instance, has been far too willing to let Marino off with a slap on the wrist for his repeated, blatant transgressions.

''There is a pattern going on where people think they can get away with things on the waterfront,'' says Stephanie Pollack of the Conservation Law Foundation.

We've spent too much time and money cleaning up Boston's once-disgraceful harbor to let that happen. Development, done right, is a good thing, not a bad thing. But now is the time to send a clear message to developers: Play by the rules, or don't play at all.

Steve Bailey can be reached at 617-929-2902 or by e-mail at bailey@globe.com.

This story ran on page D1 of the Boston Globe on 6/20/2001.

© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.

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