© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.


Fan pier enclave

THE LATEST PLAN to develop the Fan Pier on the Boston waterfront contains improvements and a challenge. Civic groups need to remind the developer and the Boston Redevelopment Authority that public access should be the first priority in a project that will endure for generations.

The plan includes the extra open space demanded by Bob Durand, the state's secretary of environmental affairs. Heights of the buildings are significantly lower at the behest of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Pritzker family, developer of the site, has decided to replace a second hotel in its earlier plan with a fourth building devoted to housing. This change would create a private complex of four condominium buildings at the tip of the Fan Pier, all geared to wealthy people.

The Pritzkers hope to provide shops and other attractions on the first floors of the residential buildings to draw people to the waterfront. A proposed children's aquarium should be a prime destination, but cafes and shops may find few customers if they have to rely chiefly on affluent residents.

The park proposed for the tip of the pier consists of twisting narrow paths and much shrubbery. This would be a pleasant place in summer but could lack the constant activity that attracts people to Rowes Wharf, for example. Perhaps a wider walkway could be built to encourage pedestrians to walk along the pier from the federal courthouse.

The ultimate goal for the city - and the developer - must be to create a neighborhood that serves all of Boston, not just itself. The harborside park, shops, cafes, and other amenities need to attract a critical mass of activity to make the Fan Pier thrive. This means programming and easy access.

The neighboring park at the Federal Courthouse is now underused because there are not enough activities there and access is poor. The Pritzker project could enlarge that problem by blocking off the harbor with big buildings, or it could create a vibrant waterfront that would serve everyone.

The latest outline of the Fan Pier project comes in the final environmental impact report to the state regulators. With their open-space concerns satisfied, the regulators have signed off.

But BRA rules provide for a 75-day comment period before the plan is presented to the board. The groups that have been so outspoken about the Fan Pier in the past should make their voices heard. Already, there have been suggestions that a second hotel would be livelier than a fourth residential building.

It's been a long process, but work on the Fan Pier plan is almost complete. What is required now is a final look to make sure that the public finds all sections of this prime waterfront site accessible and inviting.

This story ran on page A22 of the Boston Globe on 8/3/2001.

© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.

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