© Copyright 2001 The Boston Herald

Fan Pier's offices may be built first
by Scott Van Voorhis

Fan Pier developers may roll out the giant waterfront project's office towers first, leaving the promised residential buildings and centerpiece hotel until a later stage, a top city official says.

However, the possibility that Chicago hotel magnate Nicholas Pritzker's local development team might focus first on corporate office development is raising the hackles of waterfront and environmental activists.

Groups like the Conservation Law Foundation and the Boston Harbor Association have been pushing for a mixed-used neighborhood on Fan Pier - one that includes everything from a hotel and retail shops to apartments and offices.

And these activists fear that by putting off a hotel and condo and apartment buildings to some later, undetermined phase, Fan Pier could wind up being just another big, suburban-style office park.

Even pledges by Fan Pier developers to build out walkways and docks along a neaby cove and most of a two-acre ``public green'' is not enough to quell activists concerns.

With only office buildings nearby, such park land would simply become an area for noontime lounging in the weekdays.

``If it is the office buildings that lead the development on that site, it basically will be a park for lunchtime visitors,'' said Vivien Li, executive director of the Boston Harbor Association.

For their part, Fan Pier developers say they have not determined which part of Boston's largest waterfront complex should be built first - its office buildings or its hotel and residences.

That decision, officials have said, will be based on which sector is more economically feasible when the time to start work approaches. Yet Linda Haar, a top Boston Redevelopment Authority official, says she believes the developers may build Fan Pier's office towers first, adding in the hotel and residential units later.

The office market is more robust right now than the hotel sector, Haar noted.

Overall, a number of hotel projects across the Hub have been stuck on the drawing boards, unable to win financing from banks skittish about a softening economy.


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